Blaise Matuidi - Inter Miami - tight shot
Inter Miami CF

Atlanta United wary of facing "top-level player" Blaise Matuidi in Inter Miami rematch

After last week’s 0-0 draw against Inter Miami, Atlanta United gained insights into what challenge the expansion side presents overall.

But the dynamic changes ahead of Wednesday’s rematch in Fort Lauderdale (8 pm ET | TSN2 in Canada, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US), as French midfielder Blaise Matuidi is now available for selection. The Frenchman made his debut last weekend, going 79 minutes upon arriving from Serie A powerhouse Juventus.

Even though Matuidi has injected quality into Diego Alonso’s side, Atlanta interim head coach Stephen Glass doesn’t want his group to change too much.

“I think watching the game last night, as a staff we stayed up and watched it, you know he’s a top-level player,” Glass said on Monday. “There's no surprise that he's the type of midfield player he is. We know he’s box-to-box, we know he can handle the ball really well, and he's got an energy and a timing about when he presses the ball too. He tends to do pretty much everything correct. That’s why he's played at the levels he has.”

Matuidi is the 12th FIFA World Cup-winner to appear in MLS, having lifted the 2018 trophy with France. He’s also on a Targeted Allocation Money deal, leaving Miami with a third Designated Player spot as they’ve been linked with several high-profile forwards. The latest is Gonzalo Higuain, also formerly of Juventus.

But results have faltered, and Miami sit bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with one win in 2020. They’ve drawn back-to-back matches, including last weekend's 0-0 battle with Nashville SC.

The Five Stripes have drawn two straight as well, most recently a 1-1 result at rivals Orlando City last weekend that striker Adam Jahn salvaged with a stoppage-time header. Glass hopes they channel that fight and urgency more often.

“In terms of what we need to do better against Inter Miami, I think, the things that you saw, second half against Orlando the other night — the speed that we moved the ball, how much we, I said after the game we played like the game was on the line,” Glass said. “And I think we need to start like that so there is a real determination that we don't allow it to become the other team scores first and let's get back in the game.”

It’ll also be Atlanta’s first match since transferring Pity Martinez to Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr for a reported $18 million. The Argentine star hadn't featured in two straight games before the move, so they’ve grown accustomed to needing other final-third sparks. It also places greater importance on controlling the match early, which the Five Stripes haven’t done since a 2-0 win Aug. 22 over Nashville SC.

“If we can get on top and do that sort of thing early, then I think that’s exactly what we're looking for from the start,” Glass said.