Atlanta United (9-7-2) may be coming off a tough midweek result, but there’s no time to linger on it with a chance for redemption coming up this weekend against a familiar foe in the New York Red Bulls (8-7-3). The Five Stripes came out 3-0 winners in postseason play the last time these two teams faced at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and they’ll be hoping for another strong performance to get back on track in their push up the Eastern Conference.
Ahead of the huge weekend clash, we broke down the Tools to the Match, presented by The Home Depot:
Learn and Move On
There’s no way around it: Wednesday night’s road loss to the Chicago Fire was a tough night for Atlanta United, with head coach Frank de Boer calling the performance “not the Atlanta United he wants to see.” Fortunately, the team has an opportunity to put that result behind them just a few days later in front of their home fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They’ll have to reflect on what went wrong on Wednesday before they face a Red Bulls team that would be eager to pounce on similar mistakes. Learning lessons from the loss will be crucial, but just as important is their ability to have a short memory and move on to avoid letting this snowball into more than one bad performance. A mental bounce-back, a positive mindset and a full 90 minutes of focus will be key for a team looking for a return to the form they know they can reach.
Tighten up at the Back
Wednesday’s road match was a tough start for an Atlanta United defense, and an out of character one for a team that has been one of the strongest defensive units in the league so far this season. Compound that with the absence of Leandro González Pirez this weekend, who will be out for the match due to suspension from his red card, and it’s a big challenge for the red, black and gold against a tough opponent. But they’ve been almost unbeatable at home over the past few months, conceding only once at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in their last six matches. With a packed house expected in the expanded capacity configuration this weekend, they’ll be hoping that home-field atmosphere will push them over the line just like the last time these two faced each other in Atlanta.
Feed the Goal King
There could be at least one major return to the Atlanta United starting lineup this weekend, with Josef Martinez fit and available after returning from the Copa America tournament in Brazil earlier this week. While the trip to Chicago was too soon for the reigning MVP, Frank de Boer did say on Wednesday that he expects Martinez to be ready to go in front of his home fans this weekend. Josef opened the scoring with a clinical back-post finish the last time these two played in Atlanta, and had chances to do so again in New York early this year. Having one of the most lethal strikers this league has ever seen back in the lineup would be a huge boost for any team –– now Atlanta United needs to find a way to provide the kind of service Josef feasts on in the opponent’s penalty box.
The match is set to kick off Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET from Atlanta, Georgia. You can watch the match on FOX, 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.