The final day of the MLS regular season – Decision Day – has arrived, and there’s plenty on the line with playoff paths still to be determined. Atlanta United (15-9-9) are hunting for a number two seed and a first round bye as they host already crowned Supporters’ Shield winners Toronto FC (20-5-8), who hold the other Eastern Conference bye. Last time these two met, it ended in a 2-2 thriller, and this one should prove no less exhilarating as Toronto aims to crack the all-time single-season point record and Atlanta tries to guarantee a home playoff game.
With over 70,426 fans in attendance, the record-breaking match is set to kick off Sunday at 4:00 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on FOX Sports South and streamed live via FOX Sports GO.
Atlanta United (15-9-9)
Atlanta United have already clinched their postseason berth and will become the first expansion side to make playoffs since 2009. But their journey following the regular season is still uncertain, with seeds number two through five still to be determined on Decision Day. Some help from other results could see Atlanta take the number two seed, but one thing is for certain – a win will guarantee ATL UTD a home playoff game.
One of the key components of the expansion side’s success all season is their prowess up front, and their ability to get on the scoresheet match after match, ranking second in the league in goals scored with 68 on the year. Atlanta’s attack has been a hot topic all season – particularly feeling comfortable in front of the net at Mercedes-Benz Stadium where they’ve outscored their opponents 24-6.
The young, South American contingent up top comprised of three MLS 24 under 24 names in Tito Villalba, Yamil Asad and Miguel Almirón, as well as two-time league Player of the Month Josef Martinez. While Almirón has missed the last few matches due to a hamstring injury suffered in September, he’s since returned to training ahead of Sunday’s match. Five Stripes fans will be on the edge of their seat hoping to see their playmaker back in the center of the park with playoffs approaching quickly.
Despite Toronto being the only team who’s scored more than Atlanta this season, they’ve only kept one clean sheet in their last 11 road games – allowing 16 goals over that stretch. So Sunday is an opportunity for ATL UTD to truly capitalize on their home-field advantage against the top team in the league as they look to secure at least another game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in postseason.
Toronto FC (20-5-8)
Already named Supporters’ Shield champions – the best MLS regular season record – as well as being crowned Canadian Champions, Toronto FC is looking to cap off a historic regular season by setting the MLS record for single-season point total and completing the treble by taking home the MLS Cup in December.
Spearheading Toronto’s recent success has been Italian forward Sebastian Giovinco, arguably the best player in the league over the last few seasons. The 2015 Golden Boot winner may be small in stature but is big time when it comes to caliber and production, as the nifty playmaker has notched 54 goals in just three seasons with the Canadian side and currently leads his team with 15 on the year.
Joining Giovinco up front and seemingly always in sync with number ten is his strike partner Jozy Altidore, who’s presence and finishing ability has nearly matched Seba’s scoring tally with 14 this season. Fellow U.S. international Michael Bradley brings stability and composure in the center. Meanwhile the 2017 addition of Victor Vazquez in midfield has added yet another dynamic to an already lethal Toronto attack, recording eight goals and 16 assists thus far in his first season. It’s easy to focus on their impressive group up front. But on the left side, wingback Justin Morrow has added eight of his own goals and can’t be overlooked or he’ll take advantage of the extra space.
Through and through, Toronto is strong and cohesive and the conversation continues as the end of the season nears how this could be the best team that MLS has ever seen. With a chance to put their name in the history books and set the single-season point record, it’s safe to expect a fully-equipped, prepared Toronto FC team taking the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Decision Day.
- FOX Sports South
- FOX Sports GO