The Five Stripes look to continue their winning ways against a conference rival
With Atlanta United's dramatic victory over the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday, the Five Stripes have gotten themselves on the board and begun the season well. However, consistency is key in MLS and Atlanta's next test will be to defend their home against fellow Eastern Conference club Toronto FC on Saturday.
Whereas Atlanta United was able to turn around defeat in the closing stages of their season opener, Toronto found themselves on the other end of that in their opening match at DC United. The Reds found themselves up 2-1 in the 90th minute only to have the Black and Red rally in eight minutes of stoppage for a 3-2 comeback.
To make matters worse for the Canadian club, Italian Designated Player Lorenzo Insigne left the match after a non-contact injury. The 31-year-old ex-Napoli winger tallied six goals and two assists in 11 MLS appearances last season. It's unclear how much time Insigne will miss, but he did not train with the team on Tuesday.
Atlanta has played Toronto 13 times before with a 4-4-5 record. The last time both clubs faced off was on Sept. 10, 2022, and the match concluded in a 4-2 win for the Five Stripes.
Last season, the Reds' top scorers included Jonathan Osorio (9 g, 4 a), Federico Bernardeschi (8 g, 2 a) and Michael Bradley (3 g, 3 a).
From watching their game against DC United, it seems that Toronto is able to deal with crosses into the box well given the height of their center-backs. The pairing of 6'4, 32-year-old Matt Hedges and 6'1, 28-year-old Sigurd Rosted may make it difficult for Atlanta United to win aerial duels in the opponent's box.
Although the Five Stripes may not have to deal with Insigne, they will surely have to deal with another dangerous Italian winger in the form of 29-year-old Federico Bernardeschi. The Carrara native is a pacey, skilled winger who is skilled at exploiting space and won't hesitate to take shots from distance. In just 13 appearances for the Reds last season, he was able to make a significant impact.
This season, he's starting off strong with a scored penalty against DC United and a nearly-scored free kick in the same game. That's not all, though. He was a constant threat throughout that game, leading his team in expected goals (0.83) and expected assists (0.39). Needless to say, he's going to be the main danger man for the visitors and Atlanta will need to work hard to keep him quiet.
Atlanta United Predicted XI
Toronto FC Predicted XI
Score Prediction: 2-1 Atlanta United
Seeing as the chances of Giorgos Giakoumakis' visa coming through before Saturday are getting slimmer with each passing hour, I'm not seeing this as a blowout win for Atlanta. Nevertheless, I do believe the Five Stripes have more quality than this Toronto side. Presumed starters Derrick Etienne Jr and Miguel Berry should still be able to bring a greater attacking edge to the team alongside Luiz Araujo and Thiago Almada.
Almada and Araujo (redeeming himself from last week) get on the scoreboard to give Atlanta the lead, but the game doesn't end before Bernardeschi has his say to make the final score 2-1.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!