Game Preview: Atlanta United hosts struggling Toronto FC

Please win.

Miguel Almirón takes a corner for Atlanta United.

Bouncing off an impressive away win across the border in Montreal, Atlanta United are set to play another Canadian team in Toronto FC at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Last year’s Toronto squad took the league by storm. They became the first Canadian team to win the Supporters Shield by breaking the record for points won in a single season, ending with 69. Toronto also became the first Canadian team to win the MLS Cup and win a domestic treble by winning the Canadian Championship earlier that season. Despite being regarded as one of the best MLS teams of all time, they now sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

Both times Atlanta United and Toronto FC met, it resulted in a 2-2 draw. This season, things look completely different due to the fact that Atlanta United is dominating their opponents and Toronto is consistently being dominated by their opponents. TFC is currently 6-11-4, accumulating 22 points in 21 games. On the other hand, Atlanta is in the lead for the supporters shield with a whopping 47 points in 23 games.

Atlanta United can truly line up in a number of different ways due to the depth and quality they have. Here’s how the Five Stripes lined up last weekend. 

Normally we see Hector Villalba on the right hand side, but he filled in for the suspended Ezequiel Barco. Eric Remedi marked his MLS debut with with an impressive showing and Julian Gressel once again showed why he’s such an important part of the team.

After playing DC United, head coach Tata Martino said that the coaching staff suspended Barco for violating a team rule and he will subsequently have to earn his place in the team back. Andrew Carleton filled in the Barco shaped void with an impressive performance to help his team come back 3-1 after going down 0-1 in the eighth minute of the game. Then Villalba puts in an incredible performance on the left wing with an assist for league leading goal scorer Josef Martinez. All in all, Barco may not start this weekend, but Atlanta United have shown they are more than capable of winning without the young starlet.

That said, both of our right backs are unavailable for the next game. Main man Franco Escobar and backup Sal Zizzo are out due to yellow card accumulation and injury respectively. We could see either Julian Gressel or youngster Miles Robinson play in the back line this weekend. If it’s Gressel, there’s a good chance Villalba will move back to the right side of the pitch and Andrew Carleton starts for the second home match in a row. If it’s Robinson who replaces Escobar, that is likely to be the only change that we see from last weekend’s lineup.

Toronto generally lines up as a 3-5-2, so Atlanta United will want show TFC just how good they are on the counter attack and in wide areas. The Five Stripe midfield and defense will need to keep Sebastian Giovinco and Jonathan Osorio quiet as most of TFC’s goals have come from them.

Predicted Lineup:

GK: Brad Guzan

RB: Gressel

CB: Parkhurst and Gonzalez-Pirez

LB: McCann

CDM: Jeff and Remedi

LW: Carleton

RW: Villalba

CAM: Almirón

ST: Martinez


I’ve given Gressel the nod over Robinson due to Toronto’s two consecutive wins. Knowing Tata, he won’t want to risk that defensive solidity and chemistry between the backline while the Supporters Shield race is so close.

Staff predictions:

Kyle: 2-0 win.

Dalton: 2-0 win.

Drew: 3-1 win.

You can watch the match on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. Kick off is scheduled for 4 PM on Saturday, August 4th.

Up the Five Stripes.