Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew SC - Knockout Round preview image
Rudy Calderon/MLSsoccer.com

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew SC | 2017 MLS Knockout Round Preview

Atlanta United FC vs. Columbus Crew SC
Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs
Knockout Round
Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, Ga.
Thursday, Oct. 26 – Time 7 pm ET
WATCH: ESPN2, UniMás in the US | TSN, TVA Sports in Canada

From the stands to the field, Atlanta United’s expansion season has been nothing short of spectacular.

Now they have a shot to make it even more special.

Atlanta will host Columbus Crew SC in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs on Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Five Stripes drew 2-2 against Toronto FC in front of an all-time MLS record crowd of 71,874 at The Benz on Sunday to clinch fourth in the East, while Columbus sewed up the fifth-seed with their 2-2 draw at NYCFC.

Both teams were excellent down the stretch, but Columbus enters the playoffs in slightly better form. Crew SC are an unbeaten 6-0-4 in their last 10 regular season contests and are 3-0-1 in their last four. Atlanta went 5-1-4 in their last 10 games of the season, but stumbled just a bit over the last few weeks, going 0-1-3 in their final four matches of the year.

Just the third expansion team in league history to qualify for the playoffs in their first season, Atlanta were powered all year by their excellent attack. Led by Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez, Hector Villalba and Yamil Asad, Atlanta finished second in MLS with 70 goals in 34 regular season games. They were boosted on Sunday by a substitute appearance by Almiron, who missed the club’s previous four matches due to a hamstring injury.

While they got Almiron back, Atlanta did suffer a potentially damaging loss in the back against Toronto. Defender and captain Michael Parkhurst pulled up a bit lame in the second half and was subbed out late in Sunday’s draw against the Reds. If he’s out for the Columbus match, Atlanta, who lost left back Greg Garza to a hamstring injury earlier this month, will be down two of their starting defenders.

They’re going through some serious turmoil off the field, but Columbus are thriving on the pitch. Gregg Berhalter has his squad in an excellent place heading into the postseason, with big ticket attackers Ola Kamara (five goals in his last seven games), Justin Meram (two goals in his last three games) and Federico Higuain (five assists in his last three matches) all in fine form ahead of Thursday’s match.

Columbus are hot, but they’ll have their work cut out for them in Atlanta. The Five Stripes are 11-3-3 at home this year, while Crew SC are 4-9-4 outside of Ohio.

Atlanta United FC

  • Suspended: None
  • International Duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: GK Alec Kann (quad injury), D Greg Garza (left hamstring injury), F Brandon Vazquez (left hamstring injury); QUESTIONABLE: D Michael Parkhurst (knee injury)

Projected Starting Lineup
(4-2-3-1, left to right)
GK: Brad Guzan – Anton Walkes, Jeff Larentowicz, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Tyrone Mears – Carlos Carmona, Julian Gressel – Yamil Asad, Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba – Josef Martinez

Notes: Atlanta finished the 2017 season with only one loss in their last 14 home league games (10W-3D). They averaged three goals per game across those 14 matches. Miguel Almirón scored against Columbus in Atlanta’s 3-1 home win on June 17th, 2017. He also had 10 ball recoveries, tied for his season high (30 appearances).

Columbus Crew SC

  • Suspended: None
  • International Duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: D Gaston Sauro (left PCL surgery), M Ben Swanson (right ankle surgery), D Alex Crognale (sports hernia surgery)

Projected Starting Lineup
(4-2-3-1, left to right)
GK: Zack Steffen – Jukka Raitala, Josh Williams, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful – Mohammed Abu, Wil Trapp – Justin Meram, Federico Higuain, Pedro Santos – Ola Kamara

Notes: Columbus finished the 2017 season unbeaten in 10 league games (6W-4D), and outscored their opposition 19-10 across those games. Following two assists against NYCFC last weekend, Federico Higuaín finished the 2017 MLS season with seven assists in his last four league appearances. He had seven assists in his first 22 league games.

All-Time Series

Columbus and Atlanta met twice this year, with the Five Stripes winning both matches. They beat Crew SC 3-1 in Atlanta on June 17 before defeating them 2-0 in Ohio just two weeks later.

  • Overall (regular season): Atlanta 2 wins (5 goals), Columbus 0 wins (1 goal), 0 draws
  • At Atlanta (regular season): Atlanta 1 win (3 goals), Columbus 0 wins (1 goal), 0 draws

Referees

Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referees: Jeremy Hanson, Andrew Bigelow
Fourth Official: Chris Penso
VAR: Fotis Bazakos


2018 All-Star Game Tickets

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