Atlanta United, Toronto FC meet in clash of recent champs
When the past two MLS Cup champions meet Wednesday night, there will be far more consideration given to the current busy stretch in the schedule than the recent triumphant past.
Toronto FC and Atlanta United FC both can attest to the difficulties of coming off a championship season.
Toronto won the 2017 MLS Cup but failed to reach the playoffs last season, a full 14 points out of the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta United won last year’s title, but they did not get their first victory this year until the fifth game of the season, during a busy time when they also were playing in the CONCACAF Champions League. They were tied for last place in the Eastern Conference as recently as the start of play last weekend.
When they meet at Atlanta on Wednesday, both teams will be in the midst of stretch where they will play five games in just two weeks. And both will enter off convincing road victories.
Toronto FC (5-2-1, 16 points) went to Orlando City and earned a 2-0 victory on Saturday, while Atlanta United (3-3-2, 11 points) took apart a shorthanded Sporting Kansas City team on Sunday with a 3-0 victory as reigning MVP Josef Martinez scored two goals.
“(It was our) most complete performance,” Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “From start to finish, I thought we were excellent. It was a professional performance. We were patient. We didn’t turn the ball over easily. We didn’t try to force passes.”
Atlanta United has won three of its past four matches and even in that one loss at home against FC Dallas on April 20, the team showed a promising style of play.
Toronto FC’s start to the season was opposite of Atlanta United’s as they didn’t lose until their fifth match. A victory Wednesday would give them back-to-back triumphs for the first time since winning the first three games of the season.
“We pride ourselves on being very difficult to play against,” said Toronto’s Jay Chapman, who scored the insurance goal Saturday. “Any time you come in and you’re hard to play against, teams don’t always expect that on the road. That’s what we’re going to keep doing.”
Toronto forward Jozy Altidore (hamstring) and defender Drew Moor (calf) are listed as questionable for Wednesday. Atlanta United will be without defenders George Bello (adductor) and Mikey Ambrose (knee), as well as midfielder Kevin Kratz (calf) and forward Brandon Vazquez (knee).
–Field Level Media