In the midst of their busy MLS stretch in May, Atlanta United (6-4-2) prepare for their third straight road test as they head to Utah to face Western Conference foes Real Salt Lake (5-6-1). Atlanta were enjoying a historic five-match win streak until falling one goal short to Red Bulls last weekend, so they’ll be looking to bounce back against an RSL side that are coming off back-to-back wins themselves.
It’s a clash of two clubs looking to continue off a big month with a statement result, so make sure to tune in at 9 p.m. ET on UniMás. For all the details on how to follow the match, click here.
Atlanta United (6-4-2)
After a slow start to the regular season, Atlanta United have bounced back in a big way, winning six out of their last eight matches and surging up the Eastern Conference table despite a congested schedule over the course of the last month. In those six wins, Atlanta recorded six clean sheets, setting an MLS record with five consecutively. Their defense rewriting history is one of the best in the league this season, so it’s no surprise that no team has conceded less than the Five Stripes (9 goals) so far in 2019.
The formidable back line starts with their goalkeeper in U.S. international Brad Guzan who is tied for second with six clean sheets on the year and was recently named to his nation’s preliminary roster for this summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup. In front of him, Argentine center half Leandro González Pirez and U.S. youth international Miles Robinson as well as 2018 MLS Defender of the Year finalist Michael Parkhurst are as lock-down as they come. Meanwhile the return of right back Franco Escobar has solidified the unit, with the team only conceding a single goal in his last 540 minutes.
Though they’ve been stellar in the back, opponents can’t overlook just how threatening their attacking options can be even with Argentine Ezequiel Barco on international duty at the U-20 FIFA World Cup. Running the point is reigning Golden Boot winner and the all-time MLS hat-trick king Josef Martinez, who leads his side with five goals this season. Supporting him up front is a diverse and unpredictable trio in the pacy Tito Villalba, the crafty Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez, and the steadfast Julian Gressel, who challenge any attack in the league. And steering the ship and running the center of the park, Darlington Nagbe is as tidy as they come with Jeff Larentowicz and Eric Remedi providing the steel they need to disrupt any attack. But those are just some of Frank de Boer’s options, and as their intense stretch continues, don’t be surprised if they turn to the depth of their roster to help carry them through the month.
Real Salt Lake (5-6-1)
RSL enter Friday’s matchup hot off the heels of their best result yet, running rampant with a 3-0 win over the 2017 MLS Cup Champions Toronto FC at Rio Tinto Stadium last weekend. They’re a team with a lot of youth, a plethora of attacking firepower and a home crowd eager to watch their side take down another recent champion. And with more rest than Atlanta United over the past few weeks, they’ll be looking to capitalize on the opponent’s fatigue and bring the energy early.
You can’t talk about the Real Salt Lake attack without mentioning their creative, playmaking maestro in the middle, Albert Rusnák. Joining the club in 2017, the Slovakian international bagged 17 goals and 21 assists in his first two seasons and leads his side with five goals already this year. Next to him, Venezuelan Jefferson Savarino, U.S. youth international Sebastian Saucedo and reigning MLS Rookie of the Year Corey Baird give Mike Petke a pool of wingers to choose from to run the flank with four goals and five assists between the trio. Their most recent Designated Player signing sits up front in Sam Johnson, who has quite the professional history in front of net with 69 goals in 180 appearances with stints in Norway and China.
One of the most notable details about the RSL roster is their 12 Homegrown signings, boasting one of the highest number Academy products in the league. Perhaps even more impressive is three of them – Aaron Herrera, Justin Glad, and Donny Toia – have become regular starters on their back line. But they’re complimented with plenty of experience with MLS veteran and former U.S. international Nick Rimando guarding the goal.
Friday’s an interconference matchup you don’t want to miss. Make sure to tune in at 9:00 p.m. ET Saturday on UniMás, or listen to the match via 92.9 The Game, La Mejor Atlanta or via the Atlanta United App. For more info on how to follow all the action, click here.