Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United kicks off the new season with positive result at Columbus


Atlanta United begins its eighth season in MLS on Saturday when they travel to a familiar destination, Columbus, Ohio to take on the reigning MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew. Atlanta played a total of five matches against the Crew last year, with the final three coming in Round One of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Both teams enter the new campaign with similar aspirations, competing for a top-four spot in a crowded Eastern Conference and using that home-field advantage to make a deep playoff run. The club did all of its transfer work early in the offseason so head coach Gonzalo Pineda has nearly a full complement of players to select for Saturday’s season opener. As we kick off another season, let’s take a closer look at the Tools to the Match presented by the Home Deport against Columbus Crew.

Getting more consistent play and results on the road

One of the big points of emphasis during this preseason for Atlanta United has been improving the play and results on the road in 2024. Last year, Atlanta picked up just three road wins during the regular season. They were able to draw eight matches, but the road form overall is something the players and coaching staff want to improve this season. In Atlanta’s first three seasons, the team won 20 matches on the road. Over the last four seasons, the team has combined for just 11 road victories. Atlanta gets its first opportunity to improve that road form on Saturday at Field in Columbus. If the Five Stripes can collect more road wins this season, combined with the team’s always excellent home form, a top-four spot in the Eastern Conference standings should be within reach.

Don’t allow Columbus to find its rhythm in attack

Last season, the Columbus Crew found the right balance between dynamic attack and solid defense to win MLS Cup. The team brings back several key pieces from that Cup run including top goal scorer Cucho Hernandez who had a breakout campaign with 21 goals, five of which came in the playoffs, and 13 assists. His movement, link up play and devastating finishing makes him one of the top strikers in MLS. Midway through last season, Columbus added Diego Rossi, who contributed two goals and three assists in the playoffs. That duo is one of the more dynamic ones in all of MLS.

Atlanta’s new-look defense will be tested right away going up against Columbus’ high-flying attack. One of the Five Stripes’ big offseason acquisitions was Stian Gregersen, a Norwegian center back who brings international experience with him. If he can play to his full potential, and Atlanta’s defense keeps Cucho and Rossi in check, the Five Stripes can earn a road victory on Saturday.

Let the attack take over the match

Atlanta’s attack, which was of the top scoring attacks in MLS last season, returns over 80% of its scoring from the 2023 season. The projected front four are all back and look to continue the tear they were on in the final 10 games of the regular season when they scored 2.3 goals per match in that stretch.

Giorgos Giakoumakis leads the line after scoring 17 regular season goals in 2023. Playmaker Thiago Almada used the offseason to help Argentina qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. He’s coming off a campaign where he set a single-season club record with 19 assists. He enters the 2024 season only seven assists behind the all-time club record of 39 assists in all competitions. Saba Lobjanidze and Xande Silva have had a full preseason with the squad and look to build on their impressive first few months in MLS last season. If those players can regain that cohesion quickly, Atlanta United can earn three points on Saturday and start the season on a positive note.

Fans can tune in nationally on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app on Saturday afternoon at 2:00pm ET when the action kicks off at Field in Columbus. To hear the action on radio, tune into Sports Radio 92.9 The Game or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).

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