Riding a six-game unbeaten streak and with command performances stacking up, Atlanta United will host the struggling Montreal Impact at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday.
To continue its streak, Atlanta will have to keep a watchful eye on Montreal’s Argentine star Ignacio Piatti, who notched a first-half hat trick in a 5-3 loss to Los Angeles FC last week.
“The main thing that every team who plays Montreal has is how to stop Piatti,” Atlanta coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino told reporters Thursday. “If we are able to solve that part of the game then our chances of winning are much higher ... It’s important to avoid 1-on-1 situations with him.”
Atlanta (5-1-1) has scored 17 goals, and Montreal (2-5-0) has let in 17 and is riding a three-game losing streak.
Last week, the Impact led Los Angeles FC 3-1 at the half playing a man down after Victor Cabrera saw a red card in the 31st minute. Then the wheels fell off. Evan Bush made a club-record 14 saves, but there was only so much he could do.
“These are situations we need to handle better,” Montreal midfielder Saphir Taïder told Impact Media. “It isn’t easy to play a man down, but it isn’t an excuse either. Little details made us lose the game.
Atlanta is coming off a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy, after a 2-2 draw with New York City FC and back-to-back shutouts of LAFC, 5-0, and Minnesota United, 1-0. Martino credits pressure from the whole team not just the defense for the shutouts.
Atlanta is second in the league in goals, led by striker Josef Martinez’s league-leading six strikes. Miguel Almirón and Darlington Nagbe have formed a premier partnership in the midfield. Goalkeeper Brad Guzman is tied for the league lead in shutouts with three.
Montreal coach Remi Garde wants his players to fight a little harder.
“It’s in these difficult moments that we need to roll up our sleeves and give everything we have to give,” Garde said. “We’re a team and we need to show the same solidarity in defeat or in victory.”
—Field Level Media