MARIETTA, Ga. – High-pressure games in soccer are often associated with matches between teams at the top of the table, ones that will determine who will gain a foothold in the race for a championship.
Atlanta, currently languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference (1W-3L-2D), could have few better opportunities to correct course than at home against the Rapids. They’re the only winless side left in MLS and have a minus-11 goal differential, rock-bottom in the league.
Atlanta expect to win, and leaving Mercedes-Benz Stadium without three points for the fourth consecutive time this season could cause serious worry around the club. No one is more aware of the gravity of the situation than Frank de Boer.
“We need, of course, desperately, a good result at home. Three points,” the first-year coach said. “I'm confident that we're going to get the three points, but then we have to do the things we also did for 85 minutes against [FC] Dallas. Only those two or three moments we must try to avoid.”
Is this a must-win game?
Fives Stripes’ captain Michael Parkhurst stopped short of calling it that. But the game is less about the future of the manager or other potential ramifications, and more about reasserting dominance where Atlanta lifted MLS Cup last December.
“It doesn't matter if it's Colorado or Kansas City or any team in the East. Given our situation and that it's a home game, it's an important game that we need to win,” Parkhurst told media Thursday. “It's a game that we want to go out and assert ourselves [in] similar to what we did against Dallas, but more assertively and take our chances and not give up the chances we gave up.”
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez said he’s confident his team is turning a corner, but that the team just needs results to swing positively for a return to business as usual in Atlanta.
“We're in a tough situation, but I think we've noticed a change within the team,” Gonzalez Pirez said through a translator. “As you saw in the last game against Dallas, even though we didn't get the result that we wanted, if you're watching that game you can see that Atlanta created a lot of chances and probably deserved to win that game. And that's what we want. We want to be the Atlanta United team that is the protagonist in every game, taking control and creating a lot of chances."