Coming off a tough week on the road, Atlanta United is back at home this weekend looking to get back on track in the hunt for a playoff spot. Atlanta finds itself five points below the playoff line entering this weekend’s action with five matches remaining. Saturday’s opponent Toronto finds itself in a similar position, just one point ahead of Atlanta in the standings. That makes Saturday’s match even more important. The 5-Stripes have had a good record at home this year (7-3-4), while Toronto holds a record of 2-8-4 (W-L-T) on the road this season. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Toronto FC.
Get more numbers in the box
One of the things Atlanta United is working on this week is getting more numbers in the box. In the match against Portland last time out, the 5-Stripes were getting in good positions down the flanks but were unable to connect crosses in the box. Throughout the season, Atlanta United has been one of the top teams in MLS in terms of getting touches in the opponent's box. Atlanta enters this weekend ranked third in the league with 742 total touches in the opponent's box. In order to get three points against Toronto on Saturday, Atlanta needs to continue to get numbers and touches in the box and turn those opportunities into goals.
Don’t let the “boot” beat you
When looking at the geography of the country of Italy, the mainland peninsula has a striking resemblance to a boot. When you look at Toronto FC over the last few weeks, the team’s turnaround is closely tied to the addition of two Italian stars. Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi joined the club in the summer transfer window and have been playing at a high level ever since. In the nine matches they have played, the duo has combined for 13 goals and five assists. Bernardeschi has scored in three consecutive matches, while Insigne is coming off a brace in the 4-3 loss to CF Montreal.
Atlanta’s defense needs to be alert from the opening whistle in order to keep all three points at home. Toronto has scored nine goals in the opening 15 minutes, which ranks tied for second-best in MLS, while Atlanta’s defense has conceded 10 goals in the first 15 minutes.
Allow Almada time and space to create
Thiago Almada has been one of the team’s most consistent chance creators all season. In open play, Almada has created 56 total chances, which ranks him third in MLS. Almada has also shown a more complete side to his game in recent weeks, working hard off the ball and looking to win possession back for his team in different areas on the pitch. Against Portland, Almada set a new personal season-best with 13 possessions won, which is tied for the second-highest total by any Atlanta player this season. Atlanta needs to feed the attack through Almada and allow him to set up his teammates against a Toronto defense that has allowed the third-most goals in MLS this season.
Fans can tune-in locally on Bally Sports South on Saturday night as Atlanta United hosts Toronto FC at 7:30 p.m. ET. Click here to learn all the ways to watch, listen and live stream Saturday's match.