After a few weeks on the road, Atlanta United (6-5-2) are finally back in action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for back-to-back home matches, starting with a midweek clash with fellow 2017 expansion side, Minnesota United (6-4-3). Atlanta is hoping to turn the page after suffering a stoppage time heartbreaker in Salt Lake City, while Minnesota hopes to string together a third straight victory.
Ahead of the Wednesday night matchup, we broke down the Tools to the Match, presented by The Home Depot.
Cut Off Quintero
At the helm of Minnesota’s attack is a tricky, Colombian playmaker who has been perhaps the most important addition to their club since entering Major League Soccer in 2017. Ever since Darwin Quintero joined the roster at the start of last season, his clever footwork, elusive pace and lethal finishing ability brought an immediate impact, leading the team in both goals (11) and assists (15) last year. In 2019, he’s proving that his debut season was no fluke, already leading his team with 5 goals and tacking on 3 assists as well. Responsible for the creative role under the striker, Quintero will be looking to for pockets of space between Atlanta’s defense and midfield lines. If ATL UTD can cut off the supply to Quintero and limit his time on the ball, it will go a long way in shutting down any Minnesota threat going forward.
Watch the Wings
Other than Quintero, the Loons greatest threat comes from the flanks where both their outside backs and wingers bring a vertical and attacking-minded approach. Adrian Heath has opted for U.S. international Ethan Finlay and Trinidad & Tobago international Kevin Molino on either flank, with deep-lying playmaker Ján Gregus spraying long balls to feed them behind the fullbacks. While fullback Romain Métanire will miss this match due to yellow card accumulation, converted midfielder Miguel Ibarra has shown his skill translates well to the fullback position. They’ll be looking to utilize the wings on a wide Mercedes-Benz Stadium field and whip in services for Quintero and point man Angelo Rodríguez. It will be important for Atlanta to close down Minnesota’s widemen quickly to limit their number of crosses into the danger area.
Expose Calvo’s Absence
While Minnesota’s enjoying a solid start to the season and an unbeaten stint in their new home at Allianz Field, they did have to say goodbye to their rock in central defense over the last few years as Francisco Calvo was traded to Chicago in early May. Before leaving the Loons, the Costa Rican international captained the squad, played in last year’s FIFA World Cup and was a 2018 MLS All-Star selection. Though Minnesota acquired worthy replacements, a player of Calvo’s caliber, experience and leadership within his team is not easily replaceable. That leadership is even more important in tough road matches, with the Loons falling 2-0 in Chicago in their only match away from home since his departure. With the Loons’ emotional leader now suiting up for the Fire, it leaves an opportunity for Atlanta to expose that hole in the back, force mistakes and miscommunications, and take advantage of a recovering defensive unit.
The match is set to kick off Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. ET from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. You can watch the match on FOX Sports South, stream it on FOX Sports GO or listen in on 92.9 The Game or in Spanish at La Mejor Atlanta. For more details on how to follow along from home, click here.