TORONTO, Ont. - The Reds are half way through their nightmarish end of June schedule. With a big win on Wednesday in the Canadian Championship, TFC will hope that they can continue their momentum as they get set to host Atlanta United FC for a Saturday night tilt.
Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and can be watched on TSN.
The next two matches for Reds provide a great opportunity to climb up the standings and inch closer to a playoff spot. Saturday’s opponent, Atlanta United, and next week’s opponent, Columbus, are four and two points away from the Reds heading into this weekend’s round of matches. A poor start, especially on the road, can be somewhat forgiven if TFC can find a way to collect four to six points from their next two fixtures.
The busy week ahead for the Reds means that Bob Bradley will inevitably have to think about rotating his squad. Luckily for him, he will have essentially a full team to pick from for Saturday night’s matchup. Only Noble Okello (lower body) has been ruled out for this weekend’s fixture.
With Jonathan Osorio now healthy and with his return to action on Wednesday night, Bradley will likely waste no time in slotting in the Canadian international next to Michael Bradley. Bradley has also handed forward Ayo Akinola starts in the last four matches across all competitions. With his two-goal heroics providing a much needed confidence boost, Bradley may opt for an unchanged attacking group sticking with Alejandro Pozuelo, Jesus Jimenez, and Akinola to lead the way.
Atlanta United have reeled off two wins in succession, across all competitions, after going winless in their previous four outings. In their most recent matchup in league play, Atlanta walked away with a 2-0 victory over Inter Miami.
Atlanta’s road record heading into BMO Field will be a cause for concern for Five Stripes head coach Gonzalo Pineda. Through six games on the road this season, Atlanta has managed one win, a 1-0 decision against D.C. United, back in April. Since then, the Club has managed to pick up just one point on the road, against Nashville, and have scored just seven goals in six games away from the Mercedes Benz Stadium.
While the Reds (21) and Atlanta (22) have scored a similar number of goals so far this year, Atlanta have taken a considerably higher amount of shots on goal (81) compared to Toronto (58). This will mean a busy evening for the Reds backline and will require one of Quentin Westberg or Alex Bono to come up with some clutch saves. The Reds have not looked strong in second phases of play thus far under Bradley, and despite Atlanta’s poor road record, will have to stay sharp without the ball.
Toronto’s defence will also need to be wary of strikers Ronaldo Cisneros and Josef Martinez, and midfielder Thiago Almada. Cisneros leads Atlanta with four goals this season, while Martinez and Almada have each tallied three goals and three assists for the Five Stripes. Martinez specifically has been a handful for the Reds defence since joining MLS, as the striker has scored three goals and added three assists in six games against Toronto FC.
The Reds will see at least one familiar face on the Atlanta side on Saturday night. Striker Dom Dwyer, who joined Atlanta in the off-season, has appeared for the Five Stripes on nine occasions this season, tallying three goals.
While this will be the first time TFC face off against Atlanta this season. They do hold a slight advantage in the all-time record for this matchup, sporting a 4-3-4 record. The Reds have however fared well while hosting Atlanta, with three out of the four all-time wins coming at BMO Field.
In their most recent matchup, going back to last season, the teams played to a 1-1 draw, after Jordan Perruzza scored a late equaliser to steal a point. It would be the only point the Reds picked up against Atlanta last year in their three matches.
Opponent: Atlanta United FC
Kick-off: 7:30 p.m.
Stadium: BMO Field, Toronto, ON