MLS — Week 17
The Gold Cup break is over, and we are back into regular season play. Where our Five Stripes travel up across the border to face Toronto FC at BMO Field. Earlier this season Atlanta United came away with the 2-0 victory where “Tito” Villalba opened the scoring in the 17th minute. Julian Gressel closed the door on a comeback with a goal in the 67th minute. At the time United were starting to finally begin to gel after a tough start to the season. The win was the third straight victory under the new manager and our first victory against the 2017 MLS Cup Champions. Also, in the victory where the defense allowed zero shots on target as well.
Who: (4th) Atlanta United (8-5-2) at (7th) Toronto FC (5-7-4)
When: June 26th, 2019 at 8:00 PM ET
Where: BMO Field, Toronto
As we stand both teams seem to be going in very different directions, but a win or loss could just change that. Toronto FC are winless in their last 8 matches and coming off a 3-0 loss to FC Dallas just last Saturday. Whereas Atlanta United are coming off back to back US Open Cup victories, 9 wins out of 11 since the beginning of May and 4 straight victories in all competitions. Atlanta United are currently sitting 4th in the Eastern conference and sitting 7 points ahead of Toronto FC who is currently the 7th seed.
History of Atlanta United v. Toronto FC:
Atlanta United have struggled against the ’17 MLS Champions in our short history. Through five matches against Toronto, Atlanta United have come away with as victors once. With that win coming earlier this season at the Benz. Overall with 1 win, 3 draws and 1 loss. Atlanta’s record in Toronto at BMO Field the team has struggled only managing 3 goals and a draw and the last meeting which ending in a 4-1 loss that many can say and agree that match cost the team a chance at possible MLS immortality by not winning the Supporters’ Shield in the 2018 season.
For Atlanta United the team will miss (team leading goalscorer) Josef Martínez who is still at the Copa América with Venezuela who have made it through to quarterfinals of the tournament. Ezequiel Barco who made his return to the team against the Crew in the Cup could be out for 2 weeks after suffering a knock in a tackle at some point against Columbus. He (de Boer) said the injury is similar to what Tito suffered, but not as severe. On a much lesser level Kevin Kratz is OUT and George Bello is still out of this fixture with his long-term injury.
For Toronto FC the team will be without their stars in forward Jozy Altidore and midfielder Michael Bradley who are still away with the USMNT at the Gold Cup. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio is also away with the Canadian National Team at the Gold Cup tournament, along with , defender Ashtone Morgan and midfielder Noble Okello are also away. Against FC Dallas 19-year old Canadian prospect and forward Jacob Shaffelburg made his MLS debut and could feature against United. Right back Auro Jr. and defender Chris Mavinga are also questionable for the match.
Injuries aside Toronto FC has had to lean on US Men’s National teamer Terrence Boyd upon the absence of Jozy Altidore to lead the forward line and in 12 appearances for TFC. He’s yet to get on the scoresheet, but the team still remains dangerous with ’17 Best XI fullback in Justin Morrow continuing to be a threat on the byline also with newly voted All Star Alejandro Pozuelo controlling the match from the midfield. Stopping him was key in the matchup earlier in the season and would expect that to remain one of de Boer’s main objective defensively. In a team who is 6th in goals scored but also has conceded 28 goals this season.
Which makes the matchup more interesting without Josef who did not score in the matchup earlier but was integral in the team’s victory with his efforts. With his absence could give youngster Brandon Vazquez after his impressive showing during the US Open Cup a chance to lead the line. Manager de Boer has not been afraid to use the depth of this team either. Atlanta United lead the MLS in clean sheets and are one of the best defensive teams in the league to this point. For Toronto FC another motivating factor could be that it will be Greg Vanney’s 200th game managing the club.
This is a game we look forward to seeing our team back on the pitch! We will need to continue to attack their shaky back-line who are very vulnerable. As defensively solid as we are if we need to find a way to turn that into more goals as that would hit another level in performance. If United stay compact it should be professional result and hopefully bring the 3 points back home as we continue to climb the standings.