The Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs are here and that means a Round One Best-of-3 series with Columbus Crew is on deck for Atlanta United. The 5-Stripes finished the regular season with a 2-2 draw at FC Cincinnati and finished in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Columbus climbed to third place after finishing the regular season unbeaten in its last five matches played. This matchup promises to be a high-scoring affair as the league’s two top scoring teams will face each other. Most recently, the two teams played on Oct. 7 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with Atlanta securing a late 1-1 draw. Wednesday’s Match 1 of the series will be played at Lower.com Field in Columbus, a place where the Crew have been very strong this year. Let’s take a closer look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Columbus Crew.
Attention to detail is one of the keys to success, especially on the road
When you reach the postseason, a single moment could prove to be the pivotal moment that changes a match. Attention to detail has to be heightened when you reach the postseason. For Atlanta United, that means making sure that everybody knows their assignments to a tee, both defensively and offensively. One of those key areas could be set pieces, where Atlanta was one of the best teams in MLS during the regular season with 18 goals scored, including a Miles Robinson header in stoppage time off a free kick the last time these two teams faced each other. Despite Thiago Almada missing this match, Atlanta still has several players who can deliver quality crosses on free kicks or corners to create scoring opportunities.
Defensively, the 5-Stripes have to be locked in for a full 90 minutes and try to control a dangerous Columbus attack. Paying attention to every little detail could go a long way to picking up a positive result in Game 1 of the series.
Contain Columbus’ dangerous attacking players
Columbus finished the regular season with a league-high 67 goals scored, which also was tied for the most in Crew history, tying the 1998 team. That attack is led by Cucho Hernandez, who scored 16 goals and had 11 assists this year. He was one of seven players in MLS that recorded a “double-double” in goals and assists. But the Columbus attack is not just Hernandez, they possess quality in several other positions as well. Diego Rossi, who starred at LAFC previously, scored three goals and added three assists since joining in the summer. The Crew are a possession-based team, similar to Atlanta, and have a midfield that can frustrate opponents. Darlington Nagbe’s quality is well known to Atlanta fans, while Aidan Morris has ascended ever since being paired with Nagbe.
Atlanta’s defense and midfield will have to step up to the challenge of keeping Columbus’ attack at bay. Lower.com Field provides one of the best home field advantages in the league with the Crew finishing the year 12-1-4 (W-L-T). If Atlanta can weather the early attacking wave by the Crew, that would be a good sign towards coming away with a victory.
Continue to stay clinical and create clear-cut chances
Atlanta has been one of the top attacking teams in the league. The team finished the season ranked sixth in MLS in Big Chances Created, defined by Opta as clear-cut scoring opportunities. In terms of converting those chances, Atlanta rose to second in MLS with a 55.4% conversion rate. Only Orlando City (59.0%) had a better conversion rate. Atlanta needs to continue to stay clinical in front of net, especially on the road where clear-cut chances may be harder to come by than at home. Atlanta has several quality players in attack that can take advantage and score goals at any time. If the 5-Stripes can score early and put Columbus under pressure, then they will have a good chance to secure a victory on the road.
Fans can tune in nationally on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app or on FS1 Wednesday night at 7:30pm ET when the action kicks off at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio for Match 1 of the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs Round One Best-of-3 series. To hear the action on radio, tune into STAR 94.1 FM or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).
Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs
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