Yet again Atlanta United came back from a tough result and beat an opponent to hopefully get things back on track. The win against DC United was a dominant performance once the team fell behind at home. Of course the big story was Josef Martinez getting the record for most hat tricks in MLS history. He even did it without Atlanta United playing so well that they forced a team to defend so desperately that they end up with 10 or few players in the match. There is nothing stopping Josef this year and he is on a record shattering pace when it comes to the record for goals scored in a season.
A chance for points against a playoff team
If there is a team that can stop Josef, it might be the Montreal Impact. The team came to Mercedes Benz Stadium and had a very effective 70 minutes against the Five Stripes. Of course, a brace from Miguel Almiron and a few free kicks from Kevin Kratz after that put the game out of reach for Montreal. Still, they showed that an effective strategy of being cohesive and compressing the space between the defense and the midfield could be very effective against Atlanta United. With Montreal sitting in fifth place on 28 points in the league, trying to contain Atlanta seems like a likely strategy yet again.
Since that 4-1 loss in Atlanta, Montreal has been much better and turned their season around somewhat. They are 5-1-1 in their last seven league games, that stretch includes mostly beating terrible teams like Orlando City and a statement win against Sporting Kansas City. But it also includes an ugly loss to NYCFC in New York to the tune of 3-0. If Montreal wants to make the playoffs, they will need to all they points they can get and will be looking to show that by getting a result against Atlanta they can hang with the bigger teams in the conference.
More goals please Josef
So far Atlanta United has been excellent on the road this year. It seems like the team has a great sense of when to push on the gas and when to let off a bit and not go all out. Their opposition also seems to open the game up a bit as they push for home points. While Montreal may try to play a bit more defensively, the team has options in attack to trouble the Atlanta defense. Nacho Piatti may be the player that is best known in the Montreal counter attack, but attacking midfielder Saphir Taider has four goals in his last four MLS games and Atlanta’s central midfielders will need to work to limit his success in the final third.
On the attacking end, Montreal will have to deal with trying to contain Josef Martinez. The striker is already 39/100ths of the way to 100 goals in MLS in just 42 games and as the team’s best finisher will need to continue his absolutely incredible form of eight goals in five matches.
Finally, it will be fascinating to see if Andrew Carleton, assuming he starts, can build on his debut. The winger had a solid performance with a key pass and pseudo assist against DC United. He limited his creative flair and wasn’t playing risky passes in the final third. While that helped Atlanta keep possession and may have limited DC United on counter attacks, it also limited what Carleton can bring to the table. The next step in what he does as a player may be developing the judgement of when to play a pass that risks giving up possession and when to cycle the ball to continue probing the defense.
Let’s play a game
With all the talk of Josef Martinez, it is important to remember that before MLS was good players also scored hat tricks. So, the game is called true or false: Stern John once scored a hat trick when MLS had the rule where teams were allowed to have 12 players on the field for 15 minutes a game.
Good luck, I will not be grading on a curve.