Atlanta United Football Club could clinch their second straight Major League Soccer Eastern Conference title tonight if they’re able to get past Toronto FC inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. If Atlanta wins, coupled with the Seattle Sounders win over Los Angeles Football Club last night, the MLS Cup Final will be held here in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 10. With histrouyOne of the players to watch tonight is left back, Franco Escobar. Three of his five career goals for the Five Stripes have been scored in the playoffs and another was scored in the U.S. Open Cup.
“I’ve been playing this position for two years with the team,” said Escobar at the team’s Marietta training ground Tuesday. “We train it during the week, and I think you’re able to see those results in the games because we train the movements and everything we want to do.”
While the fans, and media members alike, struggled to figure out what new manager Frank de Boer was doing with Atlanta United in the first six weeks of the 2019 season, ultimately, the defensive discipline he wanted to instill into his selection, coupled with the pragmatism former manager Tata Martino brought into last year’s playoffs, has resulted in an Atlanta side that has not allowed a goal in the playoffs.
“I think we are looking much more comfortable on the ball, but also in our discipline,” de Boer said after their Conference Semifinal win over the Philadelphia Union last Thursday. “We are recognizing those moments without the ball, when to press or when to drop deeper. I think we are growing in our strength and hopefully, I still think we can do better — playing 90 minutes of total domination. But I’m very happy with the progress that I’m seeing over the course of the season.”
Discipline will be biggest key to a Five Stripes victory tonight. Defenders Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Florentin Pogba and defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz must maintain their positioning and read their keys as they must account for Toronto’s attacking midfielder, Alejandro Pozuelo. Pozuelo has been TFC’s metronome, tallying 14 goals and eight assists in the 2019 campaign. In one season after replacing Sebastian Giovinco, Pozuelo was named to MLS’s best XI this week.
Atlanta United defender Michael Parkhurst has trained this week ahead of tonight’s match, however his status remains uncertain for tonight. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Jozy Altidore has been struggling with a quad injury and his status remains uncertain.