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Preview | Heating Up On The Road To Hotlanta


Hey everyone…we’re going streaking…but, keep your clothes on, fans…I’m talking about our Loons since, in the technical sense, two straight wins makes it a streak. But, dad jokes aside, it’s encouraging to see the Black and Blue shake off their short lull to take six points from their victorious efforts in Charlotte and back home against Sporting Kansas City. As for this weekend, the boys will hit the road looking to continue their hot streak in Hotlanta. Of course, I’m talking about Atlanta United, so let’s do exactly that, shall we?

| Run of Form

Minnesota United FC (5-2-2)

Run of Form: W-W-L-D-L

As I touched on just a few sentences ago, the Loons have done their part in making that home loss against Houston a few weeks back feel like a distant memory. With two wins in hand and six points in the standings, the boys find themselves sitting a little prettier in the Western Conference in the number four spot. In recent history, MNUFC has been able to rise to the occasion when going on the road, but not every away matchday is built the same, and Atlanta will present its own set of obstacles to contend with. More on that shortly.

Atlanta United FC (3-3-3)

Run of Form: D-L-D-D-W

The other United’s last outing, a scoreless draw with the Chicago Fire, won’t go down as one of their sharper performances. While Atlanta was able to at least take a point from the match, they won’t be thrilled with the final result considering they didn’t allow Chicago a single shot on target. And, Atlanta’s record at the moment isn’t a true representation of the talent on their roster, because they are flush with it. However, the Five Stripes’ attack just doesn’t seem to be on the same page at the moment, and while they’ve played well defensively this season, they’re still thin on the backline, as multiple defenders have been on the shelf with injuries. With the Loons having a fair amount of depth on the roster, Atlanta’s lack thereof could be something our forwards can exploit.

| Keys to the Game

No Warm Welcomes Here

Maybe it isn’t exactly common knowledge to Loons fans since Atlanta hails from the Eastern Conference, but Mercedes-Benz Stadium is far from “friendly confines” for the visitors. Atlanta’s fanbase shows up and gets loud enough to blow the roof off the place. Speaking of roofs, it’s another x-factor that the Black and Blue rarely have to deal with, if ever. The thing about roofs is they hold all that noise coming from their crowd inside, and while the boys have shown that they can be road warriors and spoil the opposition’s night, they’ll have to overcome a hostile environment to do so this Saturday.

Mo’ Giorgos, Mo’ Problems?

About a month ago, Giorgos Giakoumakis was in top form. While it was, and still is, way too early to be handing out awards yet, the Atlanta United striker was having his name tossed around as an early front-runner for the Golden Boot. But, a bone bruise in his right knee would put a hitch in his giddyup, both literally and figuratively, which kept him sidelined for the better part of April. Last weekend against Chicago, Giakoumakis made his return to the pitch and was able to put in 66 minutes with the starting XI before being subbed off. After coming away from Chicago without any setbacks, I expect to see more of the Greek goal-scorer, who will be hunting for his first goal since before his injury. He may not be the only star Minnesota will have to contend with, but if the backline can avoid letting the striker get behind them, and if Dayne’s on his game, we can keep Giakoumakis at bay.

Hold That Line?

Against Sporting Kansas City, the attack was the story in the first half. As for the second half, while it was less pretty than the boys’ showing earlier in the evening, I would define it as a gritty, bend-don’t-break effort defensively…with maybe a little bit of luck mixed in too. But, against a loaded Atlanta attack, the midfield is likely to have their hands full trying to stop the likes of Giakoumakis and Thiago Almada in the middle of the pitch. While the Loons have shown how successful they can be when attacking with their wingbacks pressed up the field, the workrate that goes into that approach can be draining. Last week, Joseph Rosales and D.J. Taylor were all over the pitch, and worthy contributors to holding the advantage in the second half. Going into Atlanta, I do wonder how fresh their legs will be after grinding it out last week. Coach Ramsay has proven to be somewhat fearless in giving opportunities to young talent and versatile reserves in the Loons’ starting XI. Whatever strategy Ramsay plans to implement, the need for fresher legs may be something to consider if they want to keep up with Atlanta wingers Saba Lobjanidze and Tyler Wolff. If not, then it's only a matter of time before they start looking for opportunities to find Almada and Giakoumakis in the middle. But, if Rosales and Taylor have their fitness intact for this Saturday, their presence will buoy the Loons’ chances from both a defensive and ball possession standpoint.