170930_MatchPreview_Minnesota

Match Preview: Atlanta United vs Minnesota United

Now running on eight league matches unbeaten, Atlanta United (15-8-8) are on quite the hot streak, skyrocketing up the Eastern Conference table in the final stretch of the season. The Supporters’ Shield race may be finished, but ATL UTD are still seeking a top-two seed which would offer a first-round bye in the MLS Cup playoffs. A result Tuesday night would go a long way in accomplishing that goal as they host fellow 2017 expansion side Minnesota United (9-16-5).

The match is set to kick off Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on FOX Sports South and streamed live via FOX Sports GO.

Atlanta United (15-8-8)

After a hard-fought draw in New England and a fourth-consecutive clean sheet, Atlanta return to the friendly walls of Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Tuesday where the expansion side has been unbeatable thus far. Their six-match home stand after debuting in the new stadium resulted in five wins and a draw with Atlanta outscoring their opponents 22-3.

Head coach Tata Martino has his side exemplifying the meaning of thrilling and fast-paced soccer, and the team’s attacking flair has now captured the hearts of the club’s supporters and turned heads around the league. The fearless front line, led by leading goal-scorer Josef Martinez with 18, has now tallied 66 goals through 31 games. Add that to a back line who’s only conceded 35 times this season – ranking 2nd in the league – and there’s a reason the newcomers are continuing to shatter expansion records.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, the team will have to operate on Tuesday night without Martinez (Venezuela) as well as goalkeeper Brad Guzan (United States) due to international duty for 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. ATL UTD will also be without their Paraguayan playmaker Miguel Almirón who suffered a hamstring injury last week which is expected to keep him sidelined for at least another two weeks. But like they have all season, Atlanta will look to prove their depth of the squad and continue their current unbeaten run and clean sheet streak.

The expansion side currently sits in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, just three points behind New York City FC with a game in hand. If Atlanta United can defeat Minnesota on Tuesday night, ATL UTD will pull even with NYCFC on points, and take the second place position in the table with the goal differential advantage. A win would also guarantee at least one home playoff match to be played inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Minnesota United (9-16-5)

Minnesota United haven’t quite experienced the expansion year that they hoped. But despite their early struggles, the Loons are still mathematically in the running for a playoff berth. The club currently sits in 9th place in the Western Conference and 10 points below the magic red line. But with a few games in hand on their opposition, some positive results and a potential revenge victory on Tuesday could make Minnesota the second expansion side to reach the playoffs since 2009.

Tuesday night will certainly be a grudge match for the Loons, as the two expansion sides’ last meeting ended with Atlanta spoiling Minnesota’s home opener with a 6-1 victory in the snow. Hoping they can return the favor, MNUFC will be heading into Mercedes-Benz Stadium with minds on revenge and crashing the party in Atlanta.

The story up front for Minnesota this season has been their long-term front man, Christian Ramirez, who’s replicated his scoring form from their NASL days leading his side with 13 goals on the season. His strike partner from old, Miguel Ibarra, hasn’t produced the same numbers as Ramirez, but the two have connected for a few-wonder goals this season and history has proven that their connection on the field is one that can never be ignored.

In addition to Atlanta’s absences, Minnesota will also be without a few of their own who’ve been called into international duty with Michael Boxell (New Zealand) and Johan Venegas (Costa Rica) getting the nod, while Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica), and Kevin Molino (Trinidad & Tobago) are expected to join their national squads for World Cup Qualifying after traveling with the team to Atlanta. With wins in two out of their last three matches and an eye still on sneaking into playoffs, Minnesota are going to pose quite the challenge for an Atlanta side who’s coming off a stretch of seven games in a 20-day period.

Listen & Watch – Tuesday, October 2nd | 7:00 p.m. EST

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