Atlanta United enters the final leg of a three-match road swing on Saturday night when they travel to Lower.com Field to take on the Columbus Crew. Atlanta is looking to grab three points after earning a 2-2 draw in its last match at Montreal. Columbus is coming off a disappointing 4-2 loss at home to D.C. United. The recent history in this matchup has favored the Crew, but Atlanta has also secured four victories all-time against Columbus, including two at the old Crew stadium. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
Getting boost from return of international call-ups
Ezequiel Barco returned to Atlanta’s lineup following his stint with the Argentine Olympic squad and provided a spark offensively. He created a team-high four chances, including his beautiful assist on Atlanta’s first goal against Montreal. He had the third-highest touches (76) in the match for Atlanta and was able to dribble past opponents on a consistent basis. His combination play with Marcelino Moreno and Josef Martinez helped create several dangerous opportunities. Atlanta United will look to Barco and the attack once again on Saturday in order to get a good result at Columbus.
Defensively, George Bello and Brad Guzan returned in midweek. MLS All-Star Miles Robinson is expected to be available for Saturday’s match and is coming off an excellent Gold Cup performance. Those three will be needed to help solidify Atlanta’s defense as they take on a dangerous Crew attack.
Zelerayan is the key for Columbus’ Attack
Midfielder Lucas Zelarayan has been an instant impact player for Columbus since arriving in Major League Soccer last season. The Argentine is one of the most creative attacking midfielders in the league, while also being one of the most dangerous players off set pieces. He leads the Crew with six goals and two assists. Last year, he scored six goals in the regular season, then added two goals and five assists in the MLS Cup Playoffs as the Columbus Crew hoisted the trophy. Keeping Zelarayan in check at all times will be an important task for Atlanta’s defense.
Convert chances when they come
Since interim head coach Rob Valentino has taken over Atlanta United, the attack has been creating double digit chances in all but one match. Against Montreal, the team created 11 chances, while the last time the 5-Stripes faced Columbus, they created 15 chances. Atlanta will look to continue to create those chances this weekend against the Crew. The team ranks in the middle of MLS with 161 total created chances (tied for 13th) coming into this weekend.
A player that looks to convert those chances is Atlanta’s No. 10 Marcelino Moreno, who found the back of the net for the fifth time this season against Montreal. He continues to lead the 5-Stripes in goals, total shots, and shots on target. Moreno’s dribbling has also been a strength, as evident on the second Atlanta goal in midweek. The Argentine ranks third in MLS with 46 successful dribbles coming into this weekend. Atlanta will look to Moreno to lead the attack against Columbus on Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday night. Fans can tune into Bally Sports South or listen on the radio on Sports Radio 92.9 The Game to catch the action.