The international break may take centerstage throughout the next week or so, but there is one midweek MLS match that could be vital to playoff positioning.
Atlanta United is already bound for the postseason. Minnesota United almost certainly will not join their expansion cousins. However, the Loons can play spoiler on Tuesday night as Atlanta looks to continue their push towards an opening round bye.
Entering Tuesday’s match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta sits third in the Eastern Conference and three points behind NYCFC but, following Tuesday’s match, the two sides will be level on games played.
If Atlanta is to push up towards second, though, they’ll have to do it without some key players. Miguel Almiron is still injured while Josef Martinez and Brad Guzan will be out with their respective national teams. That puts more pressure on players like Yamil Asad and Tito Villalba to create atop the field with playmaker Julian Gressel pulling strings in behind.
Minnesota will also deal with some key absences, the biggest of which is defender Francisco Calvo. The Costa Rican is joined by Johan Venegas on Ticos duty while Michael Boxall and Kevin Molino join New Zealand and Trinidad & Tobago, respectively.
The two sides met earlier this season in Minnesota, and it was a match that was far from kind to the hosts. Atlanta cruised to a 6-1 win and, in recent weeks, the team’s attack has found ways to get close to that scoreline in a series of home matches. It will be Minnesota’s first visit to Atlanta, and they’ll hope to avoid the recent beatdowns handed out by Atlanta in a six-game home span that saw the expansion side outscore opposition, 22-3.