Atlanta United (13-8-7) could take a big step toward the playoffs this weekend, with the Montreal Impact (11-12-6) coming to Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday. The Canadian club sits one spot below the red line and will be fighting for their playoff lives as the Five Stripes look to stretch their unbeaten home streak to eleven. Here’s what red, black and gold fans can expect from their next opponent:
Atlanta United fans will remember Montreal striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel for his stoppage-time winner in the reverse fixture earlier this season. While Jackson-Hamel poses a threat of his own, it’s his South American striker partner that will cause the most headaches. There aren’t many players that have as many goals as Atlanta’s Josef Martinez this season – in fact only five have 17 or more – but one of them plays in Montreal. Argentine forward Ignacio Piatti has 17 goals for Montreal this season, equaling his career high in four MLS seasons, and he has added six assists as well. “Nacho” Piatti has been one of the best attacking players in the league over the past few seasons, and remains the talisman for this Montreal attack.
Swiss Precision in Midfield
One of the most impactful midseason additions in the league this season has been Swiss midfielder Blerim Dzemaili. A creative passer with a powerful shot from distance, Dzemaili’s European class is equally adept at creating goals and scoring them on his own. Dzemaili has a goal or an assist in six of his last seven games, with nine goals created in that span. Despite joining the team more than two months into the season, the Serie A veteran leads his team in assists and has been involved in 17 of the 36 total goals scored by the team when he’s been on the field this season. Dzemaili and Piatti combine to make a duo that can cause even the best back lines issues, so Atlanta United defenders will have to be on full alert to slow them down.
Montreal has been one of the streakiest teams in MLS this season. They sat near the bottom of the Eastern Conference after the first two months, but a four-match winning streak in August brought them back into playoff contention. That was followed by a four-match losing streak that put their postseason hopes into serious doubts. But the Impact could be swinging back: they broke Toronto’s season-long home unbeaten strike on Wednesday with a surprise 5-3 win. And after winning just one of their previous 12 league road games, they’ve won two of their last three with eight goals in that span. This is a vital game for Montreal to make up ground in the playoff race, and they’ll be thinking momentum is back on their side. Atlanta United may have to weather an early storm – or score a momentum-killing early goal – to stop the Impact in Atlanta.
The 5:00 p.m. kickoff will be broadcast live on FOX, Fox Deportes and the Fox Sports GO app, as well as the club’s radio partners, 92.9 The Game and La Mejor Radio. There are still tickets available – be there in person to cheer on the Five Stripes by reserving your spot here.