The Boys in Blue look to head into the final international break of the season strong with what would be their sixth straight win against a tough Atlanta United team on the verge of making the playoffs. The Union are on one of their hottest runs of the season, outscoring opponents 23-4 in their last five games, and they look to stay hot as they travel down south. These are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
The Union currently control their own destiny in terms of clinching home field advantage for the playoffs. They have put themselves in a great position atop the Eastern Conference table, but the job isn’t finished yet. Coach Curtin has talked all year about how important it is for the team to keep momentum and play at their highest level every game.
“We are on pace for some pretty good defensive metrics, and the offense has really come into form at a good time as well, so overall, we are trying to fine tune and tweak some things as we get into the playoffs, and continue to improve and get better each day,” Curtin said. “Overall, we are in a good position now, going into attempting to clinch the first spot in the Eastern Conference, which is a big goal of ours, and again, it’s one game at a time.
A win this Saturday against Atlanta clinches the Eastern Conference title for the Boys in Blue, and pushes them along in their race for the Supporters’ Shield. Curtin wants his team to keep their momentum and dominance as the 2022 season winds down
“We take pride in not conceding goals, going into the season that was priority number one, and in the middle to now end of the season, we have really caught fire and scored some big goals... We’re gonna go for every point now that’s left, we’re gonna play at our max the rest of the way, no more resting guys or anything like that for the playoffs, we want to go full speed ahead.”
Oh Captain My Captain
After heading home a great cross from Kai Wagner for his 6th goal of the season, captain Alejandro Bedoya immediately went down with an apparent groin injury. Fortunately enough, however, he was able to walk off on his own power as he got subbed out. After a few days rest, Coach Jim Curtin believes the 35-year-old midfielder will be full strength for the upcoming match on Saturday.
“He’ll be good. He had a little bit of an injury. After the game he just felt a weird pain in his groin, but that’s all healed up and fine. He still trained fully this week, and he’s getting treatment on it, and he’ll be totally fine for Atlanta,” Coach Curtin said
Avoiding a longer injury is immense for the Union squad, as Bedoya is having one of the best seasons of his career with six goals and six assists, both career highs. Coach Curtin talks about how vital it is to have the captain a part of the squad
“Again, it’s important to have our captain. You’ve heard me talk a ton about how important he is to this club, with the year he’s having… helping us on the offensive side, the leadership side, the defensive side, so we’re at our best with him.”
A Big Matchup in the Big A
Since joining the MLS in 2018, Atlanta has been one of the toughest teams to play. With the fan base they have behind them, along with the strong roster that they have put together, Atlanta United is never an easy team to play against. However, in their showdown earlier in the year at Subaru Park, the Union were able to slide four goals past the five stripes in a commanding win. Now the matchup heads down South for their second meeting in 3 weeks, and with that comes some tough challenges
“Obviously in their stadium it’s always a very, very tough place to go, they’ll have 40-50,000 [fans] there, you have that astroturf, and they have a really great roster of players that can put you under pressure,” Curtin said. The head coach had this to say about the astroturf playing surface, “I hate games on astroturf… We’ve warned the players that the first twenty minutes are going to be different, the ball’s going to roll differently with different spins.
With four goals off of corners in their last three games, Atlanta have been very dangerous with set pieces and they are something the Union are going to have to defend well against.
“Obviously they have a center back that has scored quite a bit of goals in a short amount of games, he’s a real weapon. They get good services as well, which is always important, but again, with the job Frank Leicht has done with our group, we’re number one in goals conceded, so we’re number one defensively on set pieces,” Coach Curtin said. “We didn’t start the year great with them, but we really have improved and done a good job, and defending set pieces against Atlanta will be a great priority.”