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Revolution march south, battle MLS-best Atlanta United FC

Two clubs headed in opposite directions clash in Hot-lanta

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New England Revolution Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

New England makes their second-ever trip to Atlanta this Saturday, and let's hope it's better than the first one, an historic 7-0 loss. Of course, if the Revs want to cling to the last vestiges of playoff hope, it'll need to be alot better, like 6 points better (-3 to +3).

Meanwhile, despite suffering a rare defeat at Red Bull Arena last weekend, the Five Stripes can get one step closer to the Supporters Shield with a win, which would be their 20th on the season. Not bad for a club in only its second year of existence.

There may be a sense of urgency for owner Arthur Blank's franchise to win trophies this year, as the band could be breaking up this winter. Thirty-goal scorer Josef Martinez, speedster playmaker Miguel Almiron, and manager Tata Martino — not to mention old-timers and former Revs Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz — may be elsewhere come next season.

First Meeting: May 30, 2018, at Gillette Stadium

Result: Revs 1, Atlanta United FC 1

Atlanta United FC: A Closer Look

Record: 19-6-6, 63 points, 65 GF, 38 GA, +27 GD

At Home: 9-2-4, 31 points

Standing: 1st in Eastern Conference and MLS (1 point ahead of New York Red Bulls)

Current Form: L-W-W-W-L

Along with the Red Bulls, the Five Stripes are a strong favorite to hoist MLS Cup in December. They also have an inside track to Supporters Shield. If the club can stay generally in tact this offseason — not a given by any stretch — they should be able to make a serious run at continental hardware next year in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Atlanta United FC have played just one home match since the middle of August, a 2-0 win over playoff-bound Real Salt Lake. They are currently on an eight-match home unbeaten run (5-0-3). Their last loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was a 3-1 defeat to the Red Bulls in late May, a team which is quickly becoming their nemesis. That loss occurred the week before their 1-1 road draw to the Revs. For what it’s worth, their record away from home since then has been a remarkable 6-3-1.

Starting left back Greg Garza remains on the shelf following shoulder surgery in May.

Team Leaders:

Goals:

Martinez- 30

Almiron - 12

Assists:

Gressel - 12

Almiron - 11

Key Passes (per game):

Almiron - 2.4

Barco - 2.2

Passing %:

Nagbe - 89.0

Larentowicz - 88.9

Tackles (per game):

Escobar - 2.4

Gonzalez Pirez/Gressel - 2.3

Clearances (per game):

Parkhurst - 4.7

McCann/Gonzalez Pirez - 2.4

Goalkeeping:

Brad Guzan

Save % - 67.9

GA/gm - 1.17

Shutouts - 8

Primary Formation: 3-4-1-2

Projected XI:

B. Guzan

F. Escobar — M. Parkhurst (or J. Larentowicz) — L. G. Pirez

J. Gressel — D. Nagbe — E. Remedi — C. McCann (or G. Bello)

M. Almiron

H. Villalba (or E. Barco) — J. Martinez

New England Revolution: A Closer Look

Record: 8-11-11, 35 points, 44 GF, 49 GA, -5 GD

On the Road: 2-7-6, 12 points

Standing: 8th in Eastern Conference (6 points below red line)

Current Form: L-D-D-W-D

Despite taking an early 1-0 lead, the Revs suffered a disappointing 4-1 defeat to reigning MLS champs Toronto FC at BMO Field last weekend. Playoff chances have been virtually extinguished.

Brad Friedel made a handful of lineup changes, hoping to get an offensive spark from a squad that had scored just 13 goals in the past 12 matches. Juan Agudelo replaced Diego Fagundez in the attack as a playmaker/second forward with Teal Bunbury. New acquisition Guillermo Hauche assumed Agudelo’s and, more recently, Kelyn Rowe’s right wing position. The latter took over at left back for rookie Brandon Bye, who had a rough match vs Chicago two weeks ago. Jalil Anibaba got the start in place of the suspended Antonio Delamea at centerback.

It’ll be interesting to see how Friedel approaches this match personnel-wise. Atlanta will be playing for a win, as will the Revs. However, the Supporters Shield is well within reach for United. The playoffs are far, far away for New England.

Team Leaders:

Goals:

Penilla/Bunbury - 11

Fagundez - 7

Assists:

Fagundez/Penilla - 6

Caicedo/Agudelo - 3

Key Passes (per game):

Fagundez - 2.8

Penilla - 1.4

Passing %:

Delamea - 84.1

Mancienne - 82.1

Tackles (per game):

Caicedo/Farrell - 2.5

Zahibo/Rowe - 2.2

Clearances (per game):

Mancienne - 7.0

Delamea - 4.1

Goalkeeping (overall):

Brad Knighton

Save % - 78.6

GA/gm - 1.75

Shutouts - 1

Primary Formation: 4-2-3-1

Projected XI:

B. Knighton

A. Farrell — A. Delamea (or J. Anibaba) — M. Mancienne — K. Rowe (or B. Bye)

L. Caicedo — S. Caldwell

G. Hauche — J. Agudelo (or D. Fagundez) — C. Penilla

T. Bunbury

Match Analysis

Atlanta United FC couples a fearsome attack and lightning-quick counter attack (over two goals scored per match) with a lockdown defense (just over one goal allowed per match). Led by Almiron and Martinez, this attack-minded squad is an absolute handful to contain. The Revs somehow managed to give up just one goal when the clubs met at Gillette earlier this season. I just can’t see how New England will be able to slow them down at home this weekend, especially with so much on the line for the Five Stripes. This might not be pretty.

Match Facts

This is just the 4th all-time regular season meeting between these Eastern Conference clubs and the final one this year. Atlanta United FC leads the series with a 1-0-2 record, including the 1-1 draw at Gillette back in May.

The only previous match between these two sides in Atlanta was the 9-man Revs’ forgettable 7-0 loss last season.

How to Watch

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, October 6, 2018
Venue: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Univision
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub (Boston); 92.9 the Game (Atlanta)
Streaming: Twitter