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15 minutes ago, lethalweapon3 said:

Vroom-vroom... it's time to pack The Benz!

Atlanta United fans will fill up their new confines at Mercedes Benz Stadium, as their team begins a five-game home swing against FC Dallas (3:30 PM Eastern). The pressure is high for both clubs, each side still clinging to a playoff spot based on points-per game despite a downturn in success.

After a strong start to the year, Dallas (9-7-10 W-L-T), 2016's US Open Cup and Supporter's Shield winners, last pulled off a victory back on July 22 at Montreal. There's been slippage defensively of late, but until last Saturday's 2-2 draw against the Red Bulls, the Toros were more concerned with getting star midfielder Mauro Diaz going.

Diaz was brought along slowly after missing the first couple months with an Achilles injury, but used a penalty kick to score his first goal of the season since returning as a starter in June in the tie versus NYRB.

While goalkeeper Brad Guzan (who made his 6th USMNT World Cup Qualifier start last week, in a 1-1 draw against Honduras) and ATLUTD defenders strive to limit shot opportunities and scores for midfielders Michael Barrios, Roland Lamah and Diaz, along with goal-leading forward Maximiliano Urruti (12 goals, 1 in 5 August games), the Peachtree Press has been pressing in a bad way. Midfielders Hector Villalba, Miggy Almiron and Yamil Asad were shut out in August, Almiron managing just a single shot-on-goal.

To be fair, Atlanta had just three games in that month, all on the road. But while the scene shifts to a fan-friendly MBS, the schedule will be compressed this month, with the next five games coming in the space of just 15 days.

While scores of thousands of Five Stripes faithful will seek to break the record for MLS attendance, what's more important is which cohort of 11 players show up and show out.

Let's Go United!

~lw3

One big plus is ATL has played 4 games less than most of the teams ahead of them, and they're still in playoff position. So plenty of opportunities to gain in the standings. On the down side, they have to make up so many more games, so they could potentially be worn out come playoff time.

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The MBS debut was a resounding success for the home club. Can Atlanta United keep their loss-less streak (7-0-1 W-L-T last 8 home matches) in the ATL going tonight? They really ought to keep the good vibes rolling against the New England Revolution (7:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast), the only MLS side that is still searching for their first road win of the 2017 season (0-10-3 in away games).

As a basketball reference, Revolution coach and former MLS All-Star Jay Heaps not only was the top collegiate soccer player in his senior season at Duke back in the late-1990s, but he also hooped it up for three seasons with the Blue Devils under Coach K.

New England's futbol club knows all about playing on fields also designed for football. They've built up a spiffy 10-2-2 mark this season at owner Robert Kraft's Gillette Stadium, home of the Deflatriots. But failure to come away with three points in Atlanta today, or at Sporting Kansas City (still undefeated at home) on Saturday, would make it one full calendar year since the Revs won a match away from home.

Last year, New England went just 2-10-5 on the road, which didn't serve them well as they lost out on a tiebreaker with Philadelphia for the sixth and final MLS Eastern Conference playoff spot. Jay could find himself in Heaps of trouble if his Revs fail to reach the postseason, yet again, on account of their road woes. But a victory today would vault New England (10-12-5) within a single point on the MLS table of Atlanta (11-8-6), although the Five Stripes do have the advantage of having a pair of games in hand.

ATLUTD's next and penultimate road game will be in Foxboro at the end of this month, a meeting sure to be replete with playoff implications for the victor. Today, the Atlanta defense will do what it can to quash the Revolution by keeping the ball away from the forehead of forward Kei Kamara (10th all-time in MLS scoring), and the table-setting feet of Lee "All I Do Is" Nguyen (14 assists, T-2nd in MLS). It is largely because of this duo, and keeper Cody Cropper (8 shutouts, T-3rd in MLS) that New England is the only one of the MLS clubs below the playoff line with a positive goal differential (+3).

Tito Villalba getting down with "LGP", granting Leandro Gonzalez Pirez his first goal of the season helped break the ice proper at The Benz on Saturday, Scoring on subsequent crosses set up by Miggy Almiron and Josef Martinez for Martinez and Greg Garza were quite satisfying for the home crowd, and more of the same would be emblematic of a diversified Atlanta attack tonight.

Let's Go United!

~lw3

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Well!

I said last night that New England wasn't so much the Revolution, moreso the Immolation. They walked out there on the pitch and promptly set themselves aflame with yellow and red cards in the first 30 minutes, before Martinez could even make it 2-0 with the second of his first-half hat trick. They went down 3-0 with the penalty kick score by Josef before the 40th minute, and then it really got ugly.

Not a single shot (on goal, or otherwise) by the Revs, and the midfielders and back linesmen are owed a great deal for that.

SuperBowl jokes aplenty for Bob Kraft's and Arthur Blank's teams.

I love Coach Tata keeping everybody's head the proper size...

Quote

“We’re playing great, But we have to remember we’re the same team who lost three times to D.C. United

I dunno about John the Baptist. But hey, Baze for LGP, how 'bout it?

~lw3

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Josef... dat boy good!

Indeed, a superb game on both ends, at least offensively. Both teams were missing defenders (most notably, ATLUTD All-Star Greg Garza, who is resting his hammy), so a 3-3 draw sounds about right. Dom Dwyer got himself unthawed for Orlando, with 2 goals and an assist. But it was just Too Much Josef, who equalized the game every time Orlando scored, set up beautifully by his mates on each goal.

Dare I say, we finally got ourselves a real nice rivalry?

~lw3

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After a scintillating 3-3 draw this weekend with Eastern Conference rival Orlando SC before a record-capacity crowd, don't expect as big a shootout with the L.A. Galaxy, who are in town tonight (7 PM Eastern, ESPN2). If there are to be fireworks at all, they're most likely to come from within the visitors' locker room.

Los Angeles canned manager Curt Onalfo back in late July after a 6-10-4 (W-L-T) start to the season, replacing him with former Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid. That alone hasn't worked, the club going 1-5-2 since to fall into a race with Colorado as MLS' worst team, and you can't fire the players.

Getting drubbed at home on Saturday, 4-0, by league juggernaut Toronto FC wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but the visitors played without stars Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, and the Galaxy managed to put only three shots on goal. That led to a contentious post-game closed-door meeting where Schmid (who won the MLS Cup here, way back in 2002) made it clear that "guys are playing for their jobs," as recalled by defender Dave Romney.

Schmid, while perhaps feeling confident in his own stature with the club, doesn't want the same fate that befell the recently fired Jay Heaps, cut loose a couple days ago after New England lost road games here at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and in Kansas City by a combined 10-1 score. Similar to the Revolution last week, the Galaxy follows up tonight's match with a visit to Sporting KC on Sunday.

L.A. will have to face the Peachtree Press without starting defender Daniel Steres, who is likely out for the rest of the MLS season with a stress fracture. Star forward Gyasi Zardes, the Brothers dos Santos (Giovani and Jonathan), and midfielder Jermaine Jones (DNP'd against Toronto) have collectively disappointed all season. They need someone to step up alongside Romain Alessandrini (team-high 9 goals and 10 assists), and do like Orlando's Don Dwyer did on Saturday by keeping his club in contention for victory.

For Atlanta, All-Star defender Greg Garza won't be back just yet, and hopefully Anton Walkes will get a spell after looking spent during the Orlando game. But Leandro Gonzalez Pirez will be back to help slow L.A.'s roll.

On offense, its hard to ask for a third consecutive hat trick for the silver-haired MLS Player of the Week. But much like goalkeeper Brad Guzan on most days, it's hard to put anything past Josef Martinez. While all eyes are on Martinez in his late sprint for the Golden Boot, look for more fine setups by Miguel Almiron's fellow midfielders to help the active Miggy snap his months-long goal drought.

Let's Go United!

~lw3

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After a 4-0 washout of the Galaxy... It seems our little secret is out!

Just keep us far, far away from your cover page, Sports Illustrated!

In other MLS news, congrats to Sporting Kansas City for winning their fourth US Open Cup tonight. The tourney and the cup are named after the Sporting KC's (and the MLS league's) founder, the late Lamar Hunt. The win is also extra bittersweet, as Hunt's successor as principal owner, Neal Patterson, passed away in July following a battle with cancer.

~lw3

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A pivotal match is in store for both host Atlanta United and the visiting Montreal Impact (5:00 PM Eastern, FOX, 92.9 FM in ATL). Picking up three points on the MLS table would be crucial today for either of two clubs jockeying for playoff position.

Toronto FC, NYC FC, and the Chicago Fire each failed to pick up wins on Saturday, allowing ATLUTD (13-8-7 W-L-T) to move up to third in the MLS standings. A win today over the Impact would allow Atlanta to inch ever-so-close to NYC, much as Josef Martinez is at NYC striker David Villa’s shadow in the Golden Boot race, with a game still in hand.

Coming off a trip to the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals, Montreal’s season has been inconsistent, starting off with just one win in its first eight matches (1-4-3), that exception being a 2-1 win at home versus upstart Atlanta. That win featured a stoppage time game-winner for the Impact, possibly precipitated by Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s ejection right before halftime. LGP’s departure also led to a penalty kick goal for Montreal in stoppage time of the first half, against Atlanta’s then-netminder Alec Kann.

Despite picking back up to speed during the summer, the Bleu-blanc-noir had been bidding adieu to their shot at a return to the postseason lately, having lost four straight games, including three at home (one against expansion Minnesota) and one at similarly slip-sliding New England. But the esprit de corps has suddenly lifted once more following Wednesday’s 5-3 victory at Toronto FC, the Supporter’s Shield leaders’ first home loss all year.

Despite their opponents playing without their top two scorers, beating their Canadian rivals was “massive”, as described by Impact coach Mauro Biello, vaulting Montreal (11-12-6) to the front of the pack among the outside-looking-in in the MLS East playoff chase. They’re now eager to pull off a double by handing Atlanta their first home loss at Mercedes Benz stadium, their first home defeat in their past 11 matches, and just United’s second loss overall in its twelve most-recent MLS contests.

Even if they’re successful today, the Impact still have a tough climb. After today’s affair, matchups with the MLS East’s top-two clubs await, including a rematch in Toronto in a couple weeks. They want their momentum to be sky-high as they return home to host Villa and the Pigeons on Wednesday. And they’ll ride Ignacio Piatti (17 goals T-4th in MLS with Atlanta’s Josef Martinez), their veteran Argentine star midfielder currently angling for a new contract, and young Quebecois forward Anthony Jackson-Hamel (two goals at Toronto, matching Piatti; game-winner vs. ATL back in April), as far as the pair can carry them.

Atlanta’s defensive crew (hopefully inclusive of left-back Greg Garza, who has missed a pair of games due to injury) has done wonders for the club, but much can be said about how effective Brad Guzan has been in goal for the Five Stripes since relieving Kann. Guzan’s 75.0 save percentage ranks second among MLS keepers (behind only Sporting Kansas City goalie Tim Melia’s 78.5%; just ahead of DC United keeper Bill Hamid’s 74.2%) with a minimum of his nine starts.

Kann is still working his way back to the fold via rehab stints in Charleston, and it will be so good to have him around as an insurance policy (67.5 save%). He amassed four clean sheets in 18 contests to start the season, but Guzan, with help from capable defenders, matched that number in just his ninth appearance this past Wednesday. Atlanta’s 4-0 washout of the L.A. Galaxy was the club’s third shutout among the first four games of this six-game homestand.

Montreal hopes to follow the script of Orlando SC by scoring first, avoiding aggravating penalties, and trying to get Atlanta to be the team playing on its heels for much of the contest. They do not want to have goalkeeper Evan Bush (60.2 save%, second-lowest among GKs with 15+ starts) getting peppered with shots from Atlanta’s dangerous front line, so Montreal’s defenders will have to be as Impact-ful as they’ve been all season.

Let’s Go United!

~lw3

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Awww, c'mon, you're pulling my leg! Or, on second thought, his!

This Iron Man literally has the word "iron" in his name, so it's no surprise Miggy hasn't really been subbed all season long. It should therefore be no surprise, too, that the wear-and-tear would catch up at an inopportune time. But, perhaps, his injury absence is more opportune than I think.

As DSS notes above, this news could have been much worse for Atlanta United. It literally is much worse for the Paraguayan national team, who planned on prying Guy Smiley loose for a pair of critical World Cup qualifying games in a couple weeks. The league-wide international obligations are stretching the MLS calendar out for everyone in October, so there's no rush to return.

Almiron was surely missed in the sluggish second half of Atlanta's 2-0 win yesterday over Montreal. But he will be recuperating as ATLUTD makes its charge for the #2 seed in the MLS East with a trio of contests against teams not completely out of the MLS playoff picture (Philly, New England, Minnesota) but also unlikely to make a late surge. If Atlanta can manage to overtake NYC FC, that could provide an additional five days of rest at season's end, in the form of a first-round bye.

It still bears underlining that an expansion team in its inaugural season reaching even 3rd in the MLS East while missing (a) its leading scorer, (b) its franchise goalkeeper, and (c) its All-Star defender, all for significant stretches of the season, is a testament to an organization and staff that already handles adversity quite well.

Even if the recovery time takes a hypothetical four weeks, that pegs Almiron's return right on time for the regular-season finale at home against MLS leader Toronto FC, if he's needed by then. It would be ideal to get his next run on the pitch in a pre-playoff contest.

In the meantime, things are shaping up for a dash of Gresselmania. Julian Gressel will have a major role in spelling Almiron, either at the wing or as an attacking center midfielder in tandem with the crafty Yamil Asad. His activity will be key in drawing defenders away from the sure foot of Josef Martinez and the booming leg of Tito Villalba, allowing those two to have space to create and helping Atlanta keep putting up crooked numbers on their side of the ledger.

~lw3

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A glance at the other clubs in the Eastern Conference as the MLS season makes its final turn toward the postseason.

1. Toronto FC (18-5-8 W-L-T) - No, it hasn't been Dodgers-bad. But for a club aiming for the moniker of Greatest MLS Team Ever, the past few weeks without Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco have been tough sledding. With the pair back soon, Toronto will want to pick up points in their final home games before concluding in Atlanta.

2. New York City FC (15-8-7) - The only team that failed to win a "home" game last weekend (albeit in Hartford, thanks to a Yankee Stadium schedule conflict) now finds Atlanta breathing down their necks. And now a 3-game road trip looms. They are eagerly awaiting the return of injured defender Maxime Chanot to the fold.

4. Chicago Fire (14-10-6) - After looking like they may have righted the ship this month, Chicago may be sinking once more. They have two road games coming versus Western Conference playoff contenders. At least designated player Nemanja Nikolic has rediscovered his offense.

5. Columbus Crew (14-12-5) - A big win over the Red Bulls has Columbus at the doorstep of a first-round playoff match, unbeaten in their last seven. But there are only three games left to pick up points, including a single home game against DC United. They'll need Federico Higuain to keep on dropping dead-ball dimes.

6. New York Red Bulls (12-11-6) - After failing to catch up with Columbus this past weekend, beating DC United twice is essential for sealing up the US Open Cup finalists' playoff hopes. The other three games are against the two current conference leaders and Atlanta. They're sorely missing Daniel Royer on the wing.

7. Montreal Impact (11-13-6) - Noone below the playoff line can afford to catch any more L's at this point. Even if the Impact win their last two home games and on the road at Colorado, can they swing another upset in Toronto? Extending the season is desired for captain Patrice Bernier, whose ties with the club goes way back to the year 2000.

8. Orlando City SC (9-13-8) - Dom Dwyer and Cyle Larin are beginning to figure things out up front for The OC. Problem is, is it too little, too late to matter in 2017? A victorious three-game homestand in the storm-damaged town could be just the boost the team and the city needs.

9. New England Revolution (11-14-5) - There's still no place like home! Even without their deposed coach, they found enough home cooking this past week to keep Toronto from hoisting the Supporters' Shield. But they'll have to find a road win at Orlando and/or Montreal to make it matter, and they're now 0-12-3 in away games.

10. Philadelphia Union (9-12-9) - If the Union could have turned a few of their league-high six road draws into wins, The Philadelphia Story would be totally different. Still, if they can score two goals in their remaining contests, and if keeper Andre Blake can stand on his head, the pressure will be on opponents to officially oust them.

11. D.C. United (9-17-4) - DC can only catch the Red Bulls for the final playoff spot, so it's nice that they can have a hand in their own demise, or theirs, by playing them twice. They'd also have to win at Columbus and Portland, so, there's that. How 'bout that Patrick Mullins, though? 4 goals in a MLS-record 31 minutes!

 

~lw3

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Atlanta United will get a chance to see what life is like without Miguel Almiron on the pitch, as the Philadelphia Union visits (7:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports South and 92.9 FM in ATL) for the final fixture of what has otherwise been a resoundingly successful homestand.

Although the Union (9-12-9 W-L-T) sit at 9th in the MLS East standings, they are not quite mathematically out of the running for a final playoff spot. And despite having just one road win to speak of this season, way back in May at D.C. United, they are still quite feisty away from home. Philly has the most road ties in the East, their six tied overall with three MLS West teams. Excepting a 3-0 defeat at Toronto FC, since August the other three road excursions for the Union have ended in draws.

It probably won't be curtains for Jim Curtin, the Philadelphia manager who once starred alongside ATLUTD technical director Carlos Bocanegra in the defensive backfield for the Chicago Fire, if his team falls short of the playoff line, making it 5 times in the past 6 seasons the Union was on the outside looking in. But Curtin can cement his chances of returning in 2018 with a late run and a big win by his team tonight.

As was the case back on August 26 in Chester, the Union will want to jump on Atlanta early (they raced to a 2-0 lead, with a goal by the struggling Alejandro Bedoya), then bunker down defensively and simplify Atlanta's shot angles for goalie Andre Blake. That plan almost worked the last time for The U, until Tyrone Mears found himself at the right place (rebounding a Blake save) and the right extra-time for an equalizing goal as time was running out.

That plan worked much better for Philly at home last weekend against the Fire. Chris Pontius scored a brace (a pair of goals) while leading scorer C.J. Sapong tied a club record with his 14th goal to grant the Union a three-goal lead. They then hung on the rest of the way to prevail, 3-1.

As for The Five Stripes, Almiron's injury opens the door fully for Julian Gressel to make waves. One more assist, adding to his eight this season, would allow him to stand alone as second all-time in assists among MLS rookies. Among players yet to make 20 starts this season, only Montreal midfielder Blerim Dzemaili has logged more (10). Gressel and Yamil Asad setting the table for not only Josef Martinez and Tito Villalba, but midfielders Carlos Carmona and Jeff Larentowicz, would help compensate for Miggy's hiatus.

Let's Go United!

~lw3

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A glorious conclusion to the September homestand has Atlanta United in the MLS Playoffs in their inaugural season, and in good shape going forward. While Atlanta (11-2-2 W-L-T at home) feels like the hottest soccer ticket around to its own fans, here’s a note of caution.

Here are the home records for several of the top MLS East playoff contenders. Toronto FC: 11-1-3. New York City FC: 10-2-4. Chicago Fire: 11-2-2. Columbus Crew: 11-3-2. There’s not much separation to speak of, really, when comparing Atlanta’s home mark to theirs.

Teams are distinguishing themselves when they successfully take their show on the road. Toronto (7-4-5) and New York City (6-6-3) are the only Eastern sides with an even or winning record in away games. Atlanta (4-6-5 on road) will try to join them, but they must begin today versus a New England Revolution club (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast) that is, just like Atlanta, 11-2-2 at home.

New England (11-15-5) nearly carbon-copied their epic defeat at The Benz just over two weeks ago, getting thrashed 6-1 on Wednesday down in Orlando. Having already fired coach Jay Heaps hasn’t made a heap of difference for their road woes, as they stretched that winless record to 0-13-3. But what has made a difference, seemingly, is the attitude the Revs display whenever they return to the comfy (for them) confines of Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium.

The same Orlando SC team that quashed the Revolution this week, got whupped 4-0 in Foxboro back on September 2. In between the 7-0, 3-1, and 6-1 road defeats of the past few weeks, the Revs took time to come home and upend top-seeded Toronto 2-1.

As for Atlanta, their road victories for the season came at Minnesota (6-1 back in March), at then-struggling Real Salt Lake (3-1 back in April), at Columbus (2-0) and in Orlando (1-0) back in July. ATLUTD then amassed just three goals over three road contests in August, going 0-1-2 in that rest-filled month. So, despite what happened the last time these two clubs met, there is insufficient evidence from this season to suggest that Atlanta is a lock to pick up three more points in the standings tonight.

Atlanta United needs to show themselves they can beat New England and the New York Red Bulls to close out their road schedule, as those wins would not only keep them in contention for a first-round bye, but would also help build confidence going into the postseason in the event they fall short of that objective.

Keys to an Atlanta victory today getting on the board first and sticking to defensive principles, on crosses and after any fortuitous scoring plays. The Revs should know better than to be suckered into desperate penalties that tilt the pitch in Atlanta’s favor. Opening up the offensive field for the creative Josef Martinez and Yamil Asad would be a losing proposition for New England.

Let’s Go United!

~lw3

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Ahead of the last series of MLS international-play breaks, we’ve got two expansion franchises facing off this evening at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They’re not going in different directions (as if that’s possible). But Atlanta United is certainly breaking out of the MLS blocks at a swifter pace than their opponents today, Minnesota United (7:00 PM, Fox Sports South in ATL, FOX 9+ in MSP).

Minnesota (9-16-5 W-L-T) took a more-measured approach to roster building. Yet it will take until today, at least, before they can be mathematically eliminated from postseason play. That’s largely thanks to the guidance of coach Adrian Heath, who had experience turning Orlando City SC into a USL league power from its birth, then carrying that team into the MLS. MNUFC has held firm at home (7-6-3), with one notable 6-1 setback in the snow being Atlanta’s first victory back in March. They haven’t been losing games that badly, of late.

Beginning with a 2-1 win in Chicago back on August 26, the Loons have gone 3-2-1 in their past six affairs, splitting their road contests with another win at Montreal last month. Beating the Impact and visiting FC Dallas gave Minnesota their first-ever two-match winning streak. Their last blemish was a 2-1 defeat at Houston on Saturday, giving the Dynamo a brief scare by spoiling the clean sheet in stoppage time.

Playoff dreams are just about dashed for Minnesota (2-10-2 away from TCF Bank Stadium), as they would need to win three road games, and a home game versus Sporting KC, plus MLS sides in Houston, Dallas, San Jose and Salt Lake City would all have to lose out. Nonetheless, they’re motivated to make amends for that 6-1 loss to Atlanta (15-8-8), playing spoiler for the hosts’ playoff-positioning hopes while putting their overall growth as a team on display.

Atlanta will be more shorthanded, deliberately, than they were during Saturday’s scoreless draw at New England. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan has joined the USMNT in preparation for Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Orlando against Panama. With Alec Kann still in recovery mode, ATLUTD will turn to Kyle Reynish, who last held the fort during a 4-2 home win over San Jose back in July. Atlanta’s starting back line will likely include Chris McCann, once again spelling All-Star Greg Garza.

Coach Tata Martino will also grant right-back Anton Walkes some rest, while leading scorer Josef Martinez is on a brief tour-of-duty with Team Venezuela. Minnesota's leading scorer, Chris Ramirez (2 goals in past 3 games) will prove to be a hard bargain with both Garza and Walkes sitting out. After granting the forward rest for his hamstring injury through much of August and September, Minnesota has prevailed in three of Ramirez's past four starts. "We know a lot of things have changed since (March's 6-1 loss to Atlanta), and we're on the upward, getting better each time we're out here," Ramirez told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, ahead of this game. "Things have definitely changed, but (that loss is) never forgotten."

Additionally, Atlanta's young reserve forward Brandon Vasquez (hamstring) will miss at least the remainder of the regular season. But the Five Stripes will return Yamil Asad to action, after the golden-toed winger was DNP’d against the Revs.

With the front line continuing to rotate in the wake of Miggy Almiron’s injury, this is probably a good time to give Kenwyne Jones an opportunity to make an impact at striker. Jones was subbed-in during each of the last three matches, after being unused since June 3. Due to national-team duties, Minnesota will be without several key starters as well, including Johan Venegas (Costa Rica) and Kevin Molino (T-n-T) at the wings, and center-backs Francisco Calvo (Costa Rica) and Michael Boxall (New Zealand).

Today’s game includes the head-to-head race for MLS Rookie of the Year, between Atlanta’s Julian Gressel and Minnesota’s Abu Danladi, the latter being the 2017 first-overall MLS Super Draft pick out of UCLA. Two defenders, Vancouver’s Jakob Nerwinski and Philadelphia’s Jack Elliott are also in the race but running ‘round the outside. Gressel (9 assists) and Danladi (7 goals in 12 appearances) can help firm up their individual cases for the award with strong play in the box tonight.

With an opportunity to ascend to 2nd in the MLS East standings (holding a tie-breaker with NYCFC, thanks to goal differential) still within their grasp, and a 12-day break between games awaiting them, Atlanta United (5-0-1 at The Benz) can ill-afford a lapse tonight before a raucous, home-team-friendly crowd. They need only ask their stadium mates, the Atlanta Falcons, how it feels to blow a home game before a break.

Let’s Go United!

~lw3

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