170610 Gressel Tools

Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United could douse the Fire’s hot streak

On Saturday, Atlanta United travel to Chi-town to face off against the Chicago Fire. Atlanta (5-5-3) are looking to mirror their dominant performance in the last meeting between the two clubs, while Chicago (7-3-4) is trying to avenge that defeat and continue their recent six-match unbeaten streak. Follow all the action starting at 4:00 p.m. EST on UniMás or via Facebook LIVE on the Univision Deportes Facebook Page.

Ahead of this weekend’s Eastern Conference clash in Chicago, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by Home Depot.

1) Spread the Field

Atlanta United’s league-leading 28 goals heading into Week 15 of MLS action is not down to chance. Tata Martino has his side in a system focused on spreading the field, maintaining possession and controlling the pace of the game. There’s no reliance on a front-three or a single star player; from the goalkeeper to the outside backs to the wings, all are involved and expected to contribute to the build-up play. Martino’s number one wing options as of late have been Julian Gressel and Yamil Asad who have recorded a combined 12 assists, in addition fullbacks Greg Garza and Tyrone Mears consistently find themselves in the final third. When Atlanta United take advantage of the full width of the pitch, they produce a hazardous situation for opposing sides.

2) Avoid Set Pieces

Last week in Atlanta’s 3-1 defeat in Vancouver, all three goals conceded stemmed from Whitecaps corner kicks. Vancouver’s massive center backs Kendall Waston and Tim Parker caused the expansion side frequent problems in the penalty area, towering over almost everyone and consistently challenging aerial contests.  Chicago’s Hungarian striker and MLS’s current top scorer Nemanja Nikolic will provide quite the presence in the 18-yard box, and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger certainly has the skill to deliver a quality ball to the big men in the box.

3) Stay Compact Defensively

Last week Chicago battled Orlando City to a scoreless draw despite having a one-man advantage for the majority of the match after a 26th minute red card. And the situation only got tougher for the Lions when they received yet another red card in the 66th minute. But still the Fire struggled and failed to penetrate the depleted Orlando side due to the organization and compact nature of the back line. If Atlanta can remain a cohesive unit defensively in the windy city this weekend, the expansion side may be able to garner another clean sheet against the Fire.