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Match Preview: Atlanta United at San Jose

I’m going going, back back, to Cali Cali

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After dominating a dismal Colorado Rapids team in a 3-0 victory over the weekend, Atlanta United continues its West Coast trip with a visit to San Jose. Back-to-back games against the two worst teams in the Western Conference is exactly what Atlanta needs to get back on track in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. While no game is an easy game, it’s important for Atlanta United to take care of business against the weaker sides and continue their good form.

The two sides have met just once before, with the Five Stripes winning 4-2 in last year’s meeting in Atlanta. With this year’s fixture in San Jose, the two teams couldn’t be any further apart in their respective positions.

Bad news in the Bay

The only Western Conference team worse than the San Jose Earthquakes one. The closest team to them? Colorado, who just took a thumping from Atlanta on the weekend. It’s been a long season for the Earthquakes, who have won just four times all season, and the future looks bleak for the Bay Area side. Their 4-8-16 record is worse than any team in Major League Soccer, even worse than that team further south than Atlanta.

To make matters worse, head coach Mikael Stahre was fired on Monday and assistant coach Steve Ralston will take over for the final six games of the season. The decision came after their 5-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, another in the long line of defeats this season.

The biggest issue for San Jose this season has been their lack of success at home. The Earthquakes lost just twice at Avaya Stadium in 2017, but have only managed two home wins this season and lost a franchise-record 11 home games in a row.

Five Stripes final push

Atlanta United have already confirmed their place in the 2018 MLS Playoffs, but now have their sights set on the Supporters’ Shield. Currently on 57 points, they sit just one point ahead of the New York Red Bulls in second place and can stretch that lead to four points with a win on Wednesday in San Jose.

As the playoffs quickly approach, form is more important than ever and it’s crucial that Tata Martino’s men take advantage of the “easy” remaining schedule. With so much at stake, Atlanta cannot afford silly losses at this point.

The 3-0 win over Colorado came with a surprise, because Josef Martinez somehow did not find the back of the net. Stepping up, Miguel Almiron supplied two goals to accompany Tito Villalba’s goal to seal three points. With yet another weak Western Conference side on the horizon, Atlanta should continue their good form and sweep aside San Jose with ease, although anything can happen.

Atlanta United lead the league with nine road wins this season, three more than the next best team. With six games remaining, Atlanta can give themselves breathing space atop the Supporters’ Shield race and Eastern Conference, while also establishing themselves as the team to beat.