Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United gets back to winning ways against Minnesota 


It’s a new month and Atlanta United is looking to start the month with a home victory on Saturday night when Minnesota United comes to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The 5-Stripes are coming off a 0-0 draw at Chicago Fire FC last weekend, where the team picked up its third clean sheet of the campaign. With two home matches to start the month of May, Atlanta is looking to gain some momentum on the pitch and climb the Eastern Conference standings. Minnesota is on a two-match winning streak and has moved up to fourth in the Western Conference standings. The Loons have been excellent on their travels this season, with a 3-1-0 (W-L-T) record on the road, tied for the most road wins in the league. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by the Home Depot against Minnesota United.

Continue to create scoring chances and finish them

While Atlanta’s attack hasn’t scored as many goals in the past couple of matches as it did early in the season, the team continues to create quality scoring chances in each match. Atlanta is the only team with two players who have 20 or more key passes coming into the weekend in Brooks Lennon (24) and Thiago Almada (23). The team’s expected goals, an advanced stat that measures the quality of scoring chances the team is creating, ranks fourth in MLS at 19.53 coming into this weekend. The numbers show that the team’s attack is creating good opportunities, they now need to convert more of those chances in to goals.

Saturday will be the next opportunity against a tough Minnesota United side. But with the return of Giorgos Giakoumakis to the starting lineup, the team’s attack should receive a boost. The Greek striker has the second-highest goal/90 ratio this season with 1.09, sitting only behind Lionel Messi of Inter Miami (1.38) among players with 400 or more minutes played. If Giakoumakis can get multiple scoring opportunities on Saturday, he will more than likely convert them and help Atlanta to three more points.

Minnesota’s counterattack is one of the best in the league

The Loons come into Saturday’s match in good form having won back-to-back matches. Minnesota has been exceptionally good on the road this season, tied for the league-lead with three road wins already. Where they have been dangerous is on the counterattack. They rank fourth in MLS in goals from counterattacks. The team has also done a great job of creating clear-cut scoring chances this season with 16, which ranks them fifth in MLS. In comparison, Atlanta has only allowed eight clear-cut chances in nine matches this season according to Sportec.

One of the players Atlanta has to be aware of is midfielder Robin Lod. He leads Minnesota with three goals and seven assists. The Finnish winger has been one of the top attacking players this season. Minnesota features multiple quality attackers that can take advantage of Lod’s chance creation, with Tani Oluwaseyi leading the team with four goals. Veteran striker Teemu Pukki has two goals this year, but he scored 10 in only 14 appearances last season. Pukki’s experience in the Premier League among other stops makes him a dangerous player in the box. Atlanta’s defense, which has conceded a league-low nine goals so far, will need to be focused for the full 90 minutes to pick up a positive result on Saturday.

Control the tempo of the match and find the right balance in attack

In the three victories for Atlanta this season, the team has done a good job of controlling the tempo of the matches and understanding when to hold possession and when to attack with speed. Most of the team’s attacks have come down the flanks. Over 60% of the team’s goals have come from wide play. Atlanta’s fullbacks, Caleb Wiley on the left and Brooks Lennon on the right, are a big part of that success. Their overlapping or underlapping runs create numerical advantages down the flanks. With the return of Giakoumakis, the team now has its focal point in attack back and those crosses into the box will have a higher chance of being converted. If Atlanta can put Minnesota under pressure early and not allow them to set up in a low block and play on the counterattack exclusively, then the spaces will open up for the 5-Stripes to take advantage. With this being the first of back-to-back home matches, it will be important for Atlanta to secure three points at home.

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

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