Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United collects three points on the road at Toronto

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Atlanta United is back on the road this weekend as it heads to Canada to take on Toronto FC at BMO Field. The Five Stripes are coming off a 1-1 draw at Yankee Stadium where they had to play the majority of the second half with 10 men. Saturday’s meeting is the second with Toronto this season, after both teams played to a 1-1 draw on Matchday 2 at the beginning of March. Atlanta sits in third place in the Eastern Conference with 14 points (4W-1L-2T) while Toronto has accumulated eight points on the year with a 1-1-5 record. The five draws are the most in MLS so far this season. Let’s take a closer look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Toronto FC. 

Next Man Up Mentality

The Five Stripes lost two players in last week’s 1-1 draw at NYCFC. Franco Ibarra picked up a red card, while Brad Guzan will be sidelined longer following an MCL injury. Fortunately, Atlanta has two goalkeeping options with plenty of MLS experience to call on. Quentin Westberg joined Atlanta from Toronto ahead of this season and has made 68 MLS regular season appearances, while Clement Diop has 50 regular season appearances under his belt.

In midfield, Santiago Sosa plays a similar defensive midfield role as Ibarra and could earn his second start of the season. Sosa has made 51 career regular season appearances with Atlanta. Matheus Rossetto has fully recovered from an early season injury and could be another option for Gonzalo Pineda.

Saturday’s match provides an opportunity for those players and others in the squad to step up and help Atlanta continue its excellent form to start the season. A victory on Saturday would mark just the second win at BMO Field in club history with the first coming in October 2021.

Don’t allow Bernardeschi time and space to take over match

Many of Toronto’s attacks through the early part of the season have come down the right side, and that’s with good reason. Federico Bernardeschi, the Italian Designated Player, has been an instant impact since joining Toronto during last summer’s transfer window. He leads the team in goals scored (3), assists (2), total shots (22), shots on target (9) and more offensive categories this season. He already scored against Atlanta in the reverse fixture to give the Canadian side a point. Atlanta’s defense and midfield will need to have good communication and awareness of where Bernardeschi is at all times.

Winning the battle on Atlanta’s left defensive side will be a big key to coming home with three points for the Five Stripes this weekend.

Giakoumakis comes from Greece, when he starts he scores with ease

Giorgos Giakoumakis has made his presence known since joining Atlanta United. The Greek international has started three matches and scored in each of them, something no other Atlanta player has been able to achieve in club history. His combination play with Thiago Almada, Luiz Araújo and Derrick Etienne Jr. has improved week by week. His work rate on both ends of the pitch has been a big boost to Atlanta’s defensive efforts. The Five Stripes rank ninth in counter pressures per match this season with 38.1 ahead of this week’s trip to Toronto. If Atlanta can force turnovers in the attacking third on Saturday, that should provide scoring opportunities for Giakoumakis. His three goals have come on only five shots on target, so he doesn’t need a lot of opportunities typically to find the back of the net.

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 BMO Field. To hear the action on radio, tune into Sports Radio 92.9 The Game or Sirius XM FC (English) or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).

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