Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United gets back on track against Charlotte FC


Rivalry Week is here in MLS as Atlanta United welcomes Charlotte FC on Saturday night to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta is looking to get back on the winning track this weekend after two tough losses on the road. Despite those two matches, Atlanta is still tied for third place in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte comes in tied for 10th in the standings. The Five Stripes are hoping to complete the season sweep of Charlotte after earning a 3-0 victory on March 11 at Bank of America Stadium. Caleb Wiley, who was called up to the FIFA U-20 World Cup this week, scored his first professional brace in that match. Atlanta’s attack will look to repeat that performance this weekend at home. Let’s take a closer look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Charlotte FC.

Take advantage of early scoring opportunities

In the first matchup between the two sides, Atlanta took advantage of early scoring opportunities to jump out to a 2-0 lead by the 12th minute. Early scoring starts have been a positive trend for Atlanta all season long. The Five Stripes lead all of MLS with five goals scored in the first 15 minutes of a match this season. Saturday’s opponent Charlotte is also tied for the league-lead in goals conceded during the first 15 minutes of play (3).

One of the ways Atlanta has found success in attack this year is through set pieces. The Five Stripes lead MLS with eight set piece goals on the year. Following last weekend’s goal from Andrew Gutman off a corner kick, Atlanta leads MLS with five corner kick goals. Getting off to a fast start, especially at home, will be important for Atlanta United to secure all three points. 

Stifle Charlotte’s momentum

Charlotte FC is coming off a good week with two home victories in the last seven days. The first one came against NYCFC in league play, before Charlotte defeated Orlando in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup during midweek. They will be without their designated player Enzo Copetti this weekend as the striker picked up his fifth yellow card of the season against NYCFC. But Charlotte features plenty of other attacking options. 

The Polish duo of Karol Swiderski and Kamil Jozwiak always provide a threat going forward. Both have scored two goals, while Jozwiak leads the team with three assists on the campaign. Kerwin Vargas is another player who has found the scoresheet and is one of the team’s best chance creators. Atlanta’s defense will have to be focused for the full 90 minutes to repeat the clean sheet they earned in the first match between the two sides.  

Movement and passing accuracy in the final third

One of the team’s points of emphasis over the last couple of weeks has been to create more movement and connect better in the final third. The team has kept possession well and is progressing the ball into the final third, but the sharpness has been missing the last couple of matches. Overall, Atlanta still ranks fourth in MLS with a 73.0% passing accuracy in the final third. Brooks Lennon and Thiago Almada are the two main players in attack with 149 combined passes in the box. Last weekend, Lennon created the most chances of any player in the league with six against Inter Miami. 

Atlanta needs to get those two players and the wingers involved in combination play that opens up the opponent's defense. Charlotte has conceded the most goals in the league with 21 heading into this weekend.  

Fans can tune in nationally on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app on Saturday night at 7:30pm ET when the action kicks off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. To hear the action on radio, tune into Sports Radio 92.9 The Game (English) or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).