Tonight, Atlanta United cap off their four-match road stretch against Real Salt Like in Utah. Atlanta (2-2-2) are looking to bounce back after a stoppage time heartbreaking defeat in Montreal, meanwhile RSL (2-3-2) are searching for their third straight victory under newly appointed head coach Mike Petke. You can catch the match at 9:30pm ET on Atlanta’s CW69 or via FOX Sports GO.
Ahead of tonight’s cross-conference clash at altitude, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by Home Depot.
1) Conserve Energy & Breath
RSL’s home of Rio Tinto Stadium sits at 4,500 feet, meaning altitude will play a major factor in tonight’s match, particularly for Atlanta United. Now while the expansion side features MLS veterans in Michael Parkhurst, Jeff Larentowicz, and Tyrone Mears as well as South Americans Carlos Carmona and Miguel Almirón who all have experience competing at high altitudes, they are not acclimatized to the atmosphere as they’ve been training in Atlanta. Tata Martino’s fast paced, high pressing side will need to be mindful of when and where to expend their energy to maintain their breath for 90 minutes against an RSL side who trains at this altitude on a daily basis.
2) Keep Eyes on the Youngsters
In addition to the coaching change, key pieces of RSL’s current win streak have been the recent form of their youngsters U.S. U-20 international Brooks Lennon and 22-year-old Slovakian DP Albert Rusnák. Lennon, just 19 years of age, is on loan from English Premier League club Liverpool F.C. and has started the last five matches for RSL. Fearless and an uncanny poise on the ball, at times he’s looked one of the most dangerous one-one-one attackers in the league. Meanwhile, Rusnák has tallied three assists and a goal thus far this season, pulling the strings at the fulcrum of RSL’s attack. Atlanta United will need to contain these two if the away side is to earn a clean sheet tonight in Utah.
3) Find the Point Man
While Atlanta’s leading goal-scorer Josef Martinez is still sidelined with an injury, striker Kenwyne Jones has received an increasing number of minutes and earned his first start for the expansion side last week. His ability to hold the ball up, provide a presence in the box as well as recording his first MLS goal all factored in to his man of the match performance for the Trinidadian striker last week in Montreal. With the likes of Miguel Almirón, Yamil Asad, Carlos Carmona, and Leandro González Pirez, from front to back Atlanta United’s side is built around players with phenomenal vision and passing ability. If they can continue to pick out Jones at the point of their attack, whether it’s to release pressure or find him on the end of the cross, they will give RSL’s back line a constant headache tonight.