Preview: Atlanta vs. Toronto – prediction, team news – Sports Mole

Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Major League Soccer clash between Atlanta United and Toronto, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Atlanta United and Toronto will renew hostilities only weeks after the Five Stripes won 2-0 in Toronto in a heated match, which saw a sending off for each side and a total of 30 fouls committed.

It is another enormous encounter for Atlanta, who are in sixth, two points above the playoff line, while the Reds are out of postseason contention with two games remaining.

Match preview

Atlanta United FC forward Josef Martinez (7) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against DC United at Audi Field on August 24, 2021© Reuters

This season has been about coming back for Atlanta, following a disappointing opening 13 games to the campaign, and they picked an excellent time to collect their first come from behind victory of the year, beating Inter Miami 2-1 on Wednesday.

When you play Atlanta, you can expect to end the match bruised and battered as they are not afraid to get physical, throwing in plenty of solid challenges, committing 39 fouls in their last three contests.

A victory in front of their home crowd at Mercedes Benz Stadium this Saturday would be enough to see them return to the postseason after missing out for the first time last year.

Gonzalo Pineda deserves a lot of credit for what he has done since taking over a team seemingly in turmoil under their previous manager Gabriel Heinze and hovering just above or below the playoff line during his tenure.

The aggressive approach from Pineda has worked for Atlanta, who have been a lot sharper in their duels, forcing their opponents to make numerous clearances and consistently putting their foes on their heels as they are among the league leaders in terms of total fast breaks.

Managing critical moments during a match and avoiding too much lateral movement with the ball has been a big part of their success, as this possession-based side have been a lot sharper in front of goal lately.

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore celebrates his goal with teammates on May 12, 2021 © Reuters

With only two games remaining, Toronto are just playing out the year to get it over with, in a season that has been underwhelming for them, to say the least.

Javier Perez and the management team might have to make some hard decisions about what to do with this team beyond the 2021 campaign, but for now, this veteran group have two matches to show that they still have it in them to take this side back to prominence next year.

Perez has implemented a very different style than his predecessor Chris Armas, with the Reds usually operating under a 4-2-3-1 formation based on positional play principles and a false nine.

The new system seems to suit this veteran squad a lot more than the 4-2-2-2 brought in by the former Red Bulls coach, but it has not worked consistently as Toronto have only collected five wins in their last 21 MLS affairs.

In their previous two fixtures, we have seen the Reds show more resiliency, coming back in each match to earn a point after conceding the opening goal.

They continue to be plagued however by defensive breakdowns, which cost them three points in their draw with the Philadelphia Union earlier this week, having now conceded 62 goals this year, the second-most in the Eastern Conference.

Atlanta United Major League Soccer form:

Toronto Major League Soccer form:

Team News

Atlanta United midfielder Marcelino Moreno (10) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Columbus Crew in the second half at Stadium on August 7, 2021© Reuters

Atlanta leading goalscorer Josef Martinez notched the winner on Wednesday, his 11th of the campaign, while Luiz Araujo was spectacular, scoring the equaliser versus the Herons, winning 14 duels with four shots on target and setting up the goal which secured all three points for the home side.

Emerson Hyndman is out with a torn ACL, while Tyler Wolff was available for the first time since sustaining a toe injury, though he sat out of their match on Wednesday.

The speed of 22-year-old Ezequiel Barco has drawn plenty of attention from opposing defenders, particularly in their previous game as he was fouled 12 times against Miami, tying a single-season MLS record.

Jozy Altidore has a goal in each of his last two games for TFC to put him in third in team scoring, drawing him even with Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio.

Dom Dwyer, Yeferson Soteldo, Omar Gonzalez, Ifunanyachi Achara and Tsubasa Endoh all have lower-body injuries, Ralph Priso underwent ankle surgery and Ayo Akinola is done for the year after tearing his ACL.

There were a few changes made to the TFC starting lineup on Wednesday as Kemar Lawrence replaced Richie Laryea at the back, Alejandro Pozuelo took the place of Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty and Altidore was put into a central striker role instead of Patrick Mullins.

Atlanta United possible starting lineup:

Guzan; Robinson, Franco, Walkes; Lennon, Moreno, Ibarra, Bello; Araujo, Torres, Martinez

Toronto possible starting lineup:

Westberg; Auro, Bradley, Zavaleta, Lawrence; Pozuelo, DeLeon, Osorio; Mullins, Altidore, Shaffelburg

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We say: Atlanta United 2-0 Toronto

The Five Stripes are unbeaten in their last five home fixtures, while the Reds have not been able to get the job done throughout much of this season because of some shocking defending, which has not got any better.

With someone as potent as Josef Martinez to call upon, you have to think that he and his teammates will be able to find a way to put a few past the helpless Reds.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data

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