It’s been four weeks since Atlanta United (8-6-2) last played in front of their home fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium after a long international break in league play. They’ll be hoping a return to their home pitch can help power them past an in-form side in the Montreal Impact (9-7-3), who sit in second place in the Eastern Conference. With several matches in hand, a win for the Five Stripes would push them a step closer to the top of the East.
Ahead of the big intraconference matchup, we broke down the Tools to the Match, presented by The Home Depot:
Take on Taider
With longtime Impact talisman Ignacio Piatti out with a knee injury, they’ve needed their other attacking options to step up. No one has done that more than Algerian winger Saphir Taider, who leads the team with seven goals so far this season. The former Inter Milan attacker is technical on the ball and is keen to take players on with his dribbling skills. He’ll be looking to combine with the clever passing of striker Maxi Urruti to find opportunities on Brad Guzan’s goal. If Atlanta United can cut off their connection, they will be missing their primary source of inspiration in the attack.
Shut Down the Wings
The Montreal Impact have often lined up in a 3-4-3 formation this year, with three center backs on the pitch allowing their attacking fullbacks to get down the wide areas of the field –– understandable when you have a former Premier League fullback in Bacary Sagna making runs down the wing. Shutting down those runs will be key for Atlanta United to cut off supply to the Montreal forwards. If they can isolate those fullbacks and starve them of service, it will cut off a key part of the Impact’s attack. And with more Impact players out on the flanks, it could leave room for the likes of Darlington Nagbe to take advantage of a numerical advantage in the middle.
Tighten up the Back
The Atlanta United back linee will be eager to prove that Wednesday’s performance when they conceded three goals was an anomaly for a side who’s been one of the best defenses in the league so far this season. This is still a team that has conceded just 14 goals in MLS so far this season, the fewest in the Eastern Conference. The advantage the home crowd brings them in this regard is tangible: they haven’t conceded a goal in 456 minutes –– or 7 hours and 36 minutes –– at home. If they can re-find that home form they left off with four weeks ago and get another clean sheet, it will set themselves up for success on both sides of the ball.
The match is set to kick off Saturday at 6:00 p.m. ET from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. You can watch the match on Fox Sports Southeast, 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.