Tools to the Match: How Atlanta United can kick off the home stretch with a win

After a two-trophy and seven-win month –– and a well-deserved weekend off –– Atlanta United (15-10-3) are ready to kick off the home stretch of their season against the Columbus Crew (8-15-7) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this weekend. The Crew are in eleventh place in the East as it stands, but with their postseason hopes still alive, they’ll be desperate to get a result in front of the rowdy crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Ahead of the Eastern Conference matchup, we broke down the Tools to the Match, presented by The Home Depot:

Silence Santos

The Crew’s top scorer this season has been Gyasi Zardes leading the line, with the U.S. international tallying 11 goals so far this year. But Zardes is at his best when he’s finishing chances created by his midfield counterparts, and there’s no bigger game-changer for the Crew than Spanish attacker Pedro Santos. Santos is quick on the dribble, classy on the ball and capable of finding the killer pass –– and is capable of scoring from long range as well. If Atlanta United can keep Santos’ back to goal and limit his time on the ball, they can stop the Crew’s attacking momentum, and snuff out the spark that ignites the Crew attack before it even gets to their top-scoring striker.

Spread the Midfield

The Crew has weapons in the attack and the back line, but where they are strongest is in the middle of the field. U.S. international Wil Trapp and Brazilian midfielder Artur form a strong midfield partnership, both capable of bringing strength and defensive power as well as forward-facing passes and dribbles into the attack. They also have a strong chemistry together; if one pushes forward, they have a near-telepathic connection where the other will stay back and keep the tactical shape. But the key to beating a strong midfield partnership is to spread them out, find the space with tight one-touch passing, and push past them into the zones in front of the center backs. If they can get past the solid foundation in the middle, they can hit the back line with a full head of steam, putting the center backs on their heels and creating space to force chances on the Crew goal.

Start Strong, Finish Stronger

Atlanta United has made their name as a team that jumps on the front foot, especially at home, taking the match to their opponent with relentless attacking play. With fresh legs underneath them and an expanded-capacity crowd behind them, they will be looking to do the same this weekend. With Josef Martinez scoring in his past thirteen matches, he will be looking to extend that historic streak, and will be as good a bet as anyone to get the team off the mark. If they can pounce early and get the rowdy and proud 17s electrified from the start, it could overwhelm a Crew team that will be eager to take the sting out of the game with their postseason hopes on the line.

Atlanta United are looking for all three points as they continue their push for home-field advantage in the postseason –– so every match is crucial from here on out. Click here to secure your tickets, or click here for all the ways to tune in from home.