It was a far from ideal start to the season for the Reds last week. Heading into week two of the season, the Reds will hope to not repeat the mistakes of last season, when the club registered just one point in its first three matches.
But, that was last season. The roster was very much under construction at this point last season and the Reds were still waiting on their two marquee signings. This year, things should be a little different. This squad is still a work in progress and are still building chemistry in different areas of the pitch, but the pieces are there.
One of the aspects of Toronto’s game that Bob Bradley will want to see improved in Atlanta is how the Reds moved the ball. Ahead of this weekend’s match, Bradley acknowledged that one of the areas where he felt his side could have been better in moving the ball quickly.
“When we looked at the game, we thought in the first half, we couldn’t move the ball fast enough,” Bradley said. “It got better as the half went.”
While Bradley and his staff will have been game planning for Atlanta United during the week, the availability of TFC’s most expensive player is still up in the air. Lorenzo Insigne, who left the season opener midway through the first half, is questionable for Saturday’s matchup.
Given Insigne’s injury and the playing surface in Atlanta being a turf field, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Reds not risk their high-profile attacker on Saturday if he isn’t completely healthy.
Similarly, midfielder Victor Vazquez, who missed the season opener through an upper-body injury, is also questionable this weekend.
In complete contrast to Toronto’s week one loss, Atlanta United completed an incredible comeback with two goals in injury time to pick up all three points in a 2-1 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes. For The Five Stripes, it was Thiago Almada who scored both goals late in week one to help his club.
The Toronto coaching staff is well aware of the threat that Atlanta and Almada can pose for the Reds defence.
“They have some skillful players,” said Bradley, speaking with reporters on Thursday. “I think everyone saw what Almeda was capable of doing in the second part of last year. So he starts out with these two great goals (this season),” said Bradley remarking on Almeda’s heroics last week.
Heading into this weekend Atlanta will be confident with their unblemished home record against the visiting Reds. Through six regular season meetings against the Reds, Atlanta has yet to drop all three points, sporting a 3-3-0 record against Toronto.
The only time The Five Stripes have failed to beat Toronto, was in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals that saw Toronto punch their ticket to that year’s MLS Final.
United head coach Gonzalo Pineda will be thrilled with the opportunity to add the club’s winter acquisition to its lineup. Atlanta announced on Friday that their marquee winter acquisition Giorgos Giakoumakis will be available for the clash on Saturday after the Greek striker’s visa was approved.
Giakoumakis inclusion in an already potent attack could keep the Reds backline busy in Atlanta, should Pineda choose to deploy his newest Designated Player.
The Reds defence struggled with the strength and movement of D.C. United striker Christian Benteke, who scored his first MLS goal last week, so it will once again be a test for the Reds new look backline should Giakoumakis make an appearance for his new club.