Tonight, Atlanta United face off against last year’s MLS Cup Finalists as they travel to Toronto FC for the first-ever meeting between the two clubs. Atlanta (2-1-1) are looking to remain unbeaten in four-straight matches, meanwhile Toronto (1-0-3) have yet to be defeated thus far this season. You can watch the matchup at 7:30pm ET on FOX Sports South. Ahead of tonight’s Eastern Conference clash up north, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by Home Depot.
1) Cover is Key
Atlanta United is looking for their third-straight clean sheet of the season. The back four have looked solid and were quite stellar last week in the scoreless draw against Seattle Sounders. However, it’s not just the back line doing the work. Whether it was Yamil Asad, Julian Gressel, Jeff Larentowicz or any of the others in midfield and forward positions, there always seemed to be enough numbers behind the ball. Especially in Tata Martino’s system where the outside backs are almost wing backs and heavily involved far up the field, cover has been key for Atlanta and will be crucial tonight with Toronto’s many weapons up front.
2) Feed Almirón and Gressel
If Atlanta want to sustain their lead in goals in the Eastern Conference, they should continue to feed Miguel Almirón and Julian Gressel. Not that every attack is produced by them, but something exciting seems to occur whenever the two 23-year-old midfielders have the ball at their feet. Almirón has two goals and two assists to his name so far this season and though Gressel may not have any tallies to his name just yet, the German has orchestrated many attacks and produced a number of chances. It’s only a matter of time before he finds himself on the scoresheet.
3) Finish Chances
In Seattle last week it was Tito Villalba who stepped into the high striker role to fill in for the injured Josef Martinez. Voted MLS Player of the Month, Martinez was having a phenomenal start to the season with 5 goals in March before being sidelined with a quad injury while on international duty with Venezuela. But even without Martinez, the 0-0 draw with the Sounders did not lack chances for the red, black and gold. Villalba, Almirón, Gressel, Asad and Jones all had ample opportunities to put some away against the reigning MLS Cup Champions. If they can apply the finishing touch on just a few chances tonight, Atlanta could return home with three points.