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Match Preview: Atlanta United at Montreal Impact

The Five Stripes are coming off a historic week where they set the new MLS attendance record against Seattle followed by a sixth career hat trick from Josef Martinez – the most of any MLS player of all-time – to sink D.C. in a huge home win. Now Atlanta United (13-4-5) heads on the road where they’ve been particularly strong all season to face the Montreal Impact (9-12-1). In the first meeting this season, Montreal struck first but it was Atlanta United who piled on four goals in the second half to assert their dominance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

This time out, Montreal will have the home-field advantage as the match kicks off from Stade Saputo at 7:00 p.m. EST on Saturday night. For those who can’t make the trip, don’t worry, you can catch the game on FOX Sports Southeast or stream it live on FOX Sports GO. Click here for all the other ways to follow along with the match.

Atlanta United (13-4-5)

After a nice home stand at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, most teams would dread hitting the road again, but that’s not the case with ATL UTD – a side who have been just as impressive away from home as they have in Atlanta. With a 6-2-2 record, no one has garnered more points on the road in MLS than the Five Stripes. Their combined home and away form in 2018 has them sitting atop the Eastern Conference as well as the Supporters’ Shield standings, and to no one’s surprise, Atlanta United also lead the league in goals scored.

A key piece of their electric goal tally this season is 24-year-old Venezuelan forward Josef Martinez who – with 22 goals in 22 games – has nearly half of the team’s 46 goals and leads the MLS Golden Boot race by a whopping margin of eight. Not only is he scorching in front of net but when he scores, he loves to score in bulk as he now holds the all-time MLS record for hat tricks with the sixth of his career coming last week against D.C. United. Since joining the league last season Martinez is scoring at a historic pace, recording a goal every 82.4 minutes – the highest rate of any MLS player since 2010. The Venezuelan has scored in their last eight matches on the road, so he’ll certainly be on the prowl again Saturday in Montreal.

But he hasn’t done it alone as the Five Stripes can break down defenses in any number of ways, starting with the quick and clever Miguel Almirón, who from the number 10 role just behind Martinez is having an MVP caliber season with 8 goals and 10 assists to his name. He’s been joined by reigning MLS Rookie of the year Julian Gressel in the middle of the park as he continues to show his unrelenting work rate and German class, with Tito Villalba bringing energy, pace and an eye for the lethal play to the flank. And in addition to the hat trick history made last week, Atlanta United’s first Homegrown made his first MLS start and after an impressive showing on the wing, could see more minutes against Montreal.

Montreal Impact (9-12-1)

Montreal has seen an up and down 2018 lead them to 28 points and a 5th place spot in the Eastern Conference. While their road form has been dreadful, their home record has carried them through this season and last time Atlanta United paid a visit to Montreal, the home side took all three points. As they hope to repeat that result on Saturday, they’ll be looking to bounce back after a midweek defeat in the Canadian Championship competition against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

No one can mention the Impact these days without first thinking about Ignacio “Nacho” Piatti. The Argentine playmaker has been nothing short of stellar since joining the Canadian club in 2014, scoring 57 goals and tallying 30 assists over his career and with 10 goals and 9 assists this season, he’s reached a double-digit scoring tally for the third consecutive year. Their #10 brings clever feet, an eye for the penetrating pass and a nose for goal you just can’t teach. Even when it may look like Montreal is in a hole, you can never count them out due to Piatti’s knack for the spectacular.

But Piatti isn’t their only threat going forward in blue & black stripes. Algerian international Saphir Taider brings another dynamic with quick and nifty feet to beat any player on the dribble from the center of the park, meanwhile Uruguayan midfielder Alejandro Silva also brings a plethora of technical skill to the wing capable of cutting in as well as serving a dangerous ball into the box. And while Piatti remains their main goal threat, the towering striker Matteo Mancosu offers a physical presence in the box that can’t be ignored.

It’s a Saturday night Eastern Conference clash you don’t want to miss so make sure to tune in at 7:00 p.m. EST on FOX Sports Southeast. The match will also be available for streaming via FOX Sports GO and for all the other ways to follow along with the match, click here.

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