Atlanta United (7-7-3) continue their week of road games this weekend, traveling to Mapfre Stadium in Columbus to face the Columbus Crew (8-9-1). Atlanta United won the reverse fixture at Bobby Dodd Stadium with a 3-1 score line just two weeks ago, and a win this weekend would see the red, black and gold leapfrog the Crew into 5th place in the Eastern Conference standings. But Columbus can provide a different challenge at home. Here's what fans of the Five Stripes can expect out of the opponents this weekend:
Home Scoring Streak
While Columbus has struggled on the road this year, they’ve proven to be effective at home with six wins and a draw out of nine matches in Columbus this year. They’ve been especially consistent on the attacking end; they’ve scored in 19 consecutive regular season home games dating back to last season, just four away from their best home scoring streak ever. The attacking trident of Kamara, Higuain and Justin Meram remain the catalyst to much of their offense, scoring 26 out of the team’s 29 league goals so far this season. Federico Higuain has been in particularly good form, scoring five goals in his past four games with the club. Atlanta’s defense kept a clean sheet last weekend against Colorado, and will be hoping that confidence will keep up their defensive momentum against a potent Columbus attack.
Struggling Against Pressure
Last time Atlanta United faced Columbus Crew, Atlanta’s renowned press caused all sorts of problems for the Columbus defense. Tito Villalba opened the scoring when Yamil Asad dispossessed a Crew defender right outside the area, while Josef Martinez’s game-clinching third also came from a forced turnover from the Columbus defense. Even Almirón’s second started with a quick counter and just one pass from Leandro González Pirez to set up the attack. But it’s not just that game. The last goal Columbus conceded, in their win last weekend over Montreal, came from a quick counter after a giveaway in midfield. And in their last major loss, a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Toronto, several of the goals came from quick vertical passes stemming from Columbus turnovers. If Atlanta can keep their press organized and disciplined, they can set up the counter attacks through open space in which the likes of Almirón and Martinez thrive.
Spark Returns to the Wing
One of Columbus’ key offseason acquisitions was Kekuta Manneh, a speedy winger from the Vancouver Whitecaps. While he has struggled to adjust to his new surroundings due to lingering injuries, he made his first statement in a yellow shirt in the Crew’s win last weekend. With the score tied at one, Manneh entered the game in the 70th minute to score a goal and set up an assist in the first three minutes he was on the field. While Columbus’ attacking lineup has been pretty consistent so far this year, Manneh could bring an extra dose of speed off the bench that Atlanta United’s defense will have to be prepared for.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on FOX Sports Southeast and MLS Live. You can listen to the game on the Atlanta United app or through one of our radio partners: 92.9 The Game or, for Spanish-speaking listeners, La Mejor Atlanta. Click here for a full rundown of how to follow along with the game.