United FC-Toronto FC Preview
Josef Martinez is a doubt for Atlanta United at Toronto FC, but Gonzalo Pineda's chief concern is the mentality of his team on the road.
Star striker Martinez was unable to train on Thursday, and Pineda said: "We will see where he's at tomorrow and make a decision.
"We work enough at different possibilities (to replace Martinez)."
With or without Martinez, though, Pineda wants Atlanta to toughen up away from home.
They have won four straight at home but lost their past two road games against the Philadelphia Union and CF Montreal.
One point outside the playoff places and facing a Toronto team near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the coach is keen to ensure there are no excuses this week.
"We have a very young team, a talented team, but it's young," Pineda said.
"And sometimes what happens with youth is that they don't have those experiences before where they had to manage different situations, tough situations in tough environments."
This is the first of six games remaining in the regular season, five of which - including two meetings with Toronto - are against sides below Atlanta in the East.
"The culture here is just trying to manage the momentum," Pineda said. "Trying to understand the importance of these three weeks and why we need to fight, why we need to compete, why we need to fight for each other, and it's just about creating that mindset."
Toronto are actually unbeaten in four in MLS and should provide a stern test, with coach Javier Perez suggesting they were "clicking" last time out in the win over the Chicago Fire.
Toronto FC - Marky Delgado
Delgado had not scored since April prior to the past two matches, despite being a regular for much of this miserable season. But goals in consecutive matches, along with an assist, have helped TFC recover some pride.
Atlanta United - Erick Torres
Torres is one option to replace Martinez should the Atlanta forward not make it. But Pineda needs the deputy to show far more than he has previously in an Atlanta shirt, scoring only once in two years - albeit across just 10 starts.
- Atlanta United recorded a 1-0 home win over Toronto on August 18, just the second victory for the Five Stripes against Toronto in MLS play (D3 L4, including playoffs). Toronto are unbeaten in their four meetings with the Five Stripes outside of Atlanta (W3 D1).
- Toronto have won consecutive matches for the first time this season and have collected 10 points in their past four matches (W3 D1 L0). The Reds had totaled just 10 points in their previous 19 matches (W2 D4 L13) dating back to mid-May.
- Atlanta have lost consecutive away matches, including a 2-1 loss in Montreal on October 2. The Five Stripes have managed just two wins in 10 all-time matches in Canada (D3 L5).
- Delgado scored in each of Toronto's past two matches, both wins, the third time in his career he has scored in consecutive matches (also in August 2017 and July 2015). The last Toronto player to score in more than two straight games was Alejandro Pozuelo (four straight) in September and October 2020.
- Atlanta United have held 58.2 per cent possession this season, nearly three per cent more than any other team (Sporting KC - 55.4). The Five Stripes have won the possession battle in all 28 of their matches this season, the only team to do so in MLS in 2021.
Updated October 15, 2021