Tools to the Match

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United picks up three points against D.C. United 

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It’s a quick turnaround for Atlanta United as it welcomes D.C. United to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday night. Following a 0-0 draw in midweek action at LAFC, Atlanta will look to extend its five-match unbeaten run at home. The team has performed well at home this season, picking up 17 of a possible 24 points in the eight home matches played. D.C. United comes into the match as one of the better road teams in the Eastern Conference with three road victories, which is tied for the second-highest wins total on the road. Let’s take a closer look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against D.C. United.

Find the attacking groove once again

Atlanta was the only team in MLS to score at least one goal in every match in the league this season until Wednesday’s 0-0 draw at LAFC. The team will look to start another scoring streak on Saturday night at home. Overall, Atlanta’s 32 total goals rank tied for second in the scoring charts as a team. Individually, Giorgos Giakoumakis’ nine goals scored is only one off the Golden Boot race.

In the previous six home meetings against D.C. United, the 5-Stripes have scored 14 goals and compiled a 5-1-0 (W-L-T) record. Atlanta’s attack will need to find its groove once again in order to keep three points at home on Saturday night.

Keep close eye on Benteke and Klich

D.C. United is led this season by former Premier League standout Wayne Rooney as head coach. The former England international has brought in some familiar Premier League experience, and it is starting to pay off. Christian Benteke was a prolific goal scorer in Europe and leads the team with eight goals on the season. His combination of size, strength and experience will be a challenge for Atlanta’s backline.

In midfield, D.C. United made one of the better offseason signings bringing in former Leeds United starter Mateusz Klich. The Polish international leads the team with six assists and 35 key passes coming into Saturday. Atlanta’s Franco Ibarra and the rest of the midfield will need to make sure Klich is not afforded time and space to carve open Atlanta’s defense. If Atlanta can produce another clean sheet as they did at LAFC then another home victory would be in the cards.

Find the right balance between solid defense and exciting attack

One of the keys to Atlanta’s success in the early part of the season was finding the right balance between solid defense and free-flowing, exciting attack. Atlanta was 3-0-1 in the first four matches and outscored opponents 11-3 in that stretch. They got contributions from all over the pitch in the attack. The defense anchored by Brad Guzan was solid in not giving away a lot of opportunities. Atlanta needs to get back to that formula.

Especially at home, Atlanta needs to build that momentum early and feed off the energy from the crowd. In the last two home matches, against Colorado and New England, Atlanta has created 38 chances and produced 47 total shots. They need to continue that form this weekend against D.C. United and overwhelm the opposition. An early goal and playing with the lead could prove vital in this Eastern Conference clash.

Fans can tune in nationally on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. 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).

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