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Preview: Reds hit the road to take on Atlanta United

Toronto FC will go up against the Josef Martinez-less Atlanta United on Saturday.

Deandre Kerr and Aiden McFadden clash for the ball during Toronto FC’s last match against Atlanta United. Toronto would win that contest 2-1 at BMO Field.
Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images

Toronto FC travels to face Atlanta United on Saturday evening, hoping to bounce back from a loss in the Canadian Classique.

That 4-3 defeat was a gut punch to say the least. Falling to your biggest rivals at home is never ideal. But, giving up a two-goal lead and seeing your playoff dream fade away is truly disastrous.

After going 4-1-3 in their 8 MLS matches before last weekend’s debacle, it seemed as though Toronto had turned a page. Unfortunately, the team seemed to fall back into old habits against CF Montréal. Sloppy defending, disappointing goalkeeping, and lack of industry all haunted the Reds, likely reminding fans of the team’s early and midseason form.

Jayden Nelson slides for the ball against Samuel Piette in the contest between Toronto FC and CF Montréal on September 4, 2022.
Sean Pollock/Waking The Red

The Reds must shift their focus to their next fixture, which takes them to ATL. Toronto beat Atlanta United in their match earlier in the year, with a late winner from Ralph Priso separating the sides at BMO Field.

Bob Bradley’s group will be shorthanded for their visit down south, with key players being ruled out, and the status of others remaining unclear.

Chris Mavinga and Jonathan Osorio are out for Saturday, with Deandre Kerr also listed as questionable. Osorio will miss his fourth straight match, having not featured for his club since the 2-1 loss to Inter Miami on August 20. Lukas MacNaughton is likely to start alongside Shane O’Neill in place of Mavinga, who was subbed out of the Montreal game at halftime.

The availability of the three Italians on TFC’s roster also remains unclear for the contest with Atlanta. Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Criscito missed Thursday’s training due to a family matter that Insigne is dealing with. Federico Bernardeschi worked out on his own that day according to Bradley.

Mark-Anthony Kaye could make his way back into the starting lineup after playing off the bench last time out in his return from injury. The Canadian international has only started three matches for Toronto FC, with his last coming against Charlotte FC on July 23rd.

Finally, Alex Bono might be benched in favour of Quentin Westberg after Bono’s substandard derby day performance. Bradley seemed less than pleased with the American shot-stopper’s recent displays when speaking after the match against Montreal.

Atlanta United come into Saturday’s matchup in uninspiring form. The Five Stripes have collected one win in their past six matches, losing their last two. They are set to miss out on the playoffs for just the second time in the young franchise’s history.

To make matters worse, Josef Martinez, the club’s all-time leading scorer, will miss out on the chance to play against TFC. The Venezuelan striker was suspended for a week by his club due to conduct detrimental to his team.

The 2018 MLS MVP has failed to hit the heights of previous league campaigns, with head coach Gonzalo Pineda not trusting him with many starts. He still leads his team with eight goals in 12 league starts.

In Martinez’s place, Ronaldo Cisneros has had to step up to the plate and carry the load. The Mexican has started the past 12 games for Atlanta United and will likely keep that trend going against Toronto FC on Saturday.

Martinez’s peripheral role, as well as long-term injuries to goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender Miles Robinson, have kept Atlanta from competing with the best in MLS this season. They can find some positives in what has been a bleak season by surpassing Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference standings if they win against the side that got the better of them in the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Game Notes

  • Toronto FC has never swept a multi-game season series against Atlanta United
  • Atlanta shares the highest pass percentage in the league with LA Galaxy (84.7%)

Predicted Lineups

Atlanta United: Gudino; Wiley, Campbell, Franco, Lennon; Ibarra, Sejdic, Moreno; Almada, Cisneros, Araujo

Toronto FC: Bono; Criscito, O’Neill, MacNaughton, Laryea; Nelson, Bradley, Kaye; Petrasso, Akinola, Bernardeschi

Match Details

Opponent: Atlanta United

Kickoff time: 7:30 pm EST

Watch: TSN

Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.