Finding quite the rhythm in their new home, Atlanta United (13-8-7) are rolling four matches unbeaten while scoring 17 goals since debuting in Mercedes-Benz Stadium two weeks ago. The expansion side will look to maintain their scorching hot form as they host the Montreal Impact (11-12-6) on Sunday evening. The Impact are coming off an impressive 5-3 road victory over Supports’ Shield leaders Toronto FC, snapping their Canadian rival’s season-long home unbeaten record.
The match is set to kick off Sunday at 5:00 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on FOX and streamed live via FOX Sports GO.
Atlanta United (13-8-7)
“Hot at home” would be an understatement for the Five Stripes. After losing two of their first three MLS home games, Atlanta is now unbeaten in their last ten – outscoring the opposition 33-9 over that time – and have only lost one match in their last twelve regular season matches. With their most recent win over the L.A. Galaxy Wednesday, Atlanta have now lifted themselves to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, recording three clean sheets in their four matches inside the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium so far.
In year one, head coach Tata Martino has established an attacking, fast-paced identity for the league newcomers who have now tallied a total of 61 goals through 28 matches. Only Toronto has scored more with 66.
Spearheading the impressive number is their young, South American contingent up front. Venezuelan international Josef Martinez has missed a chunk of matches with injury this season but still leads his team with 17 goals – scoring eight of those in the last two weeks alone – and now has three hat-tricks this season. The 24-year-old is averaging a goal every 65 minutes, the best rate in league history (min. three goals) and currently lies just two goals behind the MLS Golden Boot leader in NYCFC’s David Villa.
Next to Martinez, constantly causing trouble on the wing is forward Tito Villalba, who has recorded 11 goals of his own as well as nine assists. Pulling the strings behind them and exploiting the gaps in the opposition are Miguel Almirón, Yamil Asad as well as SuperDraft selection Julian Gressel, who have tallied a combined 32 assists this season.
The club’s attack has electrified the league, but the team’s effort on the other side of the ball has proven extremely impressive for a newly assembled back line in its first year. With only 35 goals conceded this season, Atlanta United’s defense ranks third in the league, and their +26 goal differential ranks second. Led by U.S. international goalkeeper Brad Guzan and team captain Michael Parkhurst, Atlanta will look to keep up the solid defensive form as they hope for revenge against the Impact.
Montreal Impact (11-12-6)
The Impact haven’t quite had the season they were hoping for after making an appearance in the MLS Cup Eastern Conference finals last year. Only winning one of their first eight matches of the year – which came against Atlanta – the Impact have since strung enough wins together to find themselves teetering on the playoff line in the final stretch of the season.
At the heart of the Impact’s success over the last few years is their Argentine playmaker Ignacio Piatti. The 32-year-old has tallied 52 goals and 24 assists since joining the Canadian club and is currently experiencing his best season yet, already matching his goal and assist numbers from last year – 17 goals, 6 assists – with five games still to play. Piatti brings experience, creativity, flair and an uncanny ability to find the back of the net, and there’s no doubt Atlanta will be focused on shutting down the maestro on Sunday.
Piatti’s magic moments often steal the show but the Impact are not one-dimensional, with plenty other attacking threats sporting the blue and black stripes. From the center of the park, Blerim Dzemaili leads his side with 10 assists, and his vision, craftiness and impressive long-range shooting ability make him an invaluable asset going forward. Another key piece to their front line – and one Atlanta will certainly remember – is forward Anthony Jackson-Hamel. The 24-year-old has nine goals to his name, including a brace in his last outing as well as the game-winner that defeated Atlanta United in the final seconds of their last meeting.
Sunday’s match will be one you won’t want to miss as the points on the table are crucial for both sides in hopes of making the MLS Cup Playoffs with just a few matches remaining in the regular season.
- FOX Sports GO