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Preview: Toronto FC look to continue hot stretch against desperate Atlanta United

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Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo could both make their returns on Saturday.

(Sean Pollock/Waking The Red)

TORONTO, CANADA—After a two-week international break, Toronto FC will look to pick up where they left off on Saturday evening when the Reds play host to Atlanta United at BMO Field.

TFC enter Saturday’s match having won four out of their last five games in all competitions, including a run of form which has seen them drastically improve their performances in front of the faithful at BMO Field, as the club has not lost at home since Sept. 14 (a 1-0 loss to Inter Miami CF, which likely should have been a win.)

With that being said, with the MLS Cup Playoffs out of reach, this weekend’s contest carry little weight for he Reds, whose main focus the rest of the way will be on finishing the year strong and, of course, the Canadian Championship.

Atlanta, meanwhile, they have much more to play for. As it stands, the five stripes are currently one point out of a playoff spot and will look to bounce back after a crucial loss to CF Montreal on Oct. 2. On that day, a goal from substitute Jake Mulraney was not enough to get past Montreal as a brace from Romell Quioto propelled Club de Foot to a 2-1 win, moving them one point up on Atlanta.

On the injury front for Toronto FC, there’s some good news and some bad news. According to Javier Perez, both Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo could make their return to the squad on Saturday. Altidore underwent surgery on his foot and missed the last two months of the season, while Pozuelo has also been out for a long period of time, but was fit enough to make the bench in their last match before the international break against Chicago.

According to Perez, both players have been in full-team training and there’s a chance they could be in line for some minutes.

The bad news, however, is that Yeferson Soteldo is deemed questionable for Saturday’s match. The 24-year-old picked up a knock while on international duty with Venezuela, and the team was initially concerned that the injury could be severe. But according to Perez, after being evaluated by the club’s medical staff, it was determined that Soteldo’s injury was not as bad as it was first perceived, and the Venezuelan may be available to play a role against Atlanta. With that being said, Perez did emphasize that at this point in the season, Toronto will likely proceed with caution on that front, meaning Soteldo may sit this one out.

For Atlanta, they’ll be without their talisman Josef Martinez. Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda spoke to media and said that Martinez won’t travel to Toronto after injuring his hamstring on Oct. 2 against Montreal.

Here’s the official TFC injury report:

OUT:

  • Ayo Akinola - ACL injury
  • Tsubasa Endoh - Lower body
  • Ralph Priso - Lower body
  • Luke Singh - Lower body

QUESTIONABLE:

  • Jozy Altidore - Lower body
  • Dom Dwyer - Lower body
  • Chris Mavinga - Lower body

TFC and Atlanta have met one time this season with the five stripes coming away with a 1-0 victory on August 18 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium – a win which sparked the club’s late run back into playoff contention. For what it’s worth, in four games, Atlanta has never beaten Toronto on the road.

Here’s what Perez had to say when asked about what he was expecting from Atlanta:

“Barco scored in that game that we played in Atlanta,” recalled Perez. “We had a decent game, but in the end we didn’t get any points. They’re going to play in a 5-2-3, we know that Martinez is a question mark, but if there is no Martinez, there will be Moreno, who can be a kind of a 10, and then Barco and [Luis] Araujo up front. These three put a lot of energy, a lot of pressure.”

“They have in the middle [Santiago] Sosa and [Matheus] Rossetto, the two holding midfield players. They cover the ground, at times they sit back, but they also like to step up and put pressure, he detailed. “And then they have the wing-backs – George Bello and Lennon – who have been doing a terrific job. They join the three up front offensively, they are fast.”

“And the three at the back – [Anton] Walkes, [Alan] Franco, and [Miles] Robinson – they are very fast, they are reactive, and they cover a lot of ground,” Perez added. “Overall we are going to find a team that connect well with each other, they are very fast in transition, and then they can hurt the opposition because of the quality that they have.”


HOW TO WATCH

Who: vs. Atlanta United
When: 7:30 pm ET
Where: BMO Field
How to Watch: TSN4