MLS Preview: Atlanta United hosts last season’s MLS champion, and more

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Coming off an exciting All-Star week, week 23 of MLS action resumes with 11 matches, 10 of them taking place on Saturday. Here are some storylines to keep an eye on this weekend…

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Atlanta hosts defending champions

Since Toronto FC fell in the CONCACAF Champions League final at the end of April, the team has been spiraling out of control. Long-term injuries have kept Victor Vasquez, Jozy Altidore, Drew Moor, Chris Mavinga and Eriq Zavalata among others off the field, and the team’s fortunes have suffered. Now, Toronto FC heads into the lion’s den to face the current Supporters Shield leaders.

Josef Martinez is coming off four goals in a week, including one against Juventus in the MLS All-Star game. While Toronto FC has won two-straight games, Atlanta United has four wins in its last five and has one loss in it’s last 11 as the incredible firepower has overcome any defensive liabilities. With Drew Moor still out, can Martinez continue his incredible goal-scoring form?

Can the Loons keep winning?

It appears we need to split the history of Minnesota United in MLS as pre-Darwin Quintero and post the day Quintero signed for the club.

Since joining, Minnesota United has been arguably the hottest team in MLS. with three wins in their last four that including three goals in that same span from Quintero. In fact, when Quintero and Christian Ramirez play together, they average an impressive 1.8 goals per 90 minutes. The duo were shut down though last week against Vancouver, and that’s a tactic the Sounders are likely to try this Saturday when they visit Minnesota.

Seattle meanwhile is beginning to play much better and has won three-straight games, including a six-game unbeaten run. Nico Lodeiro has played a big role, with three goals and four assists in the Sounders’ last 11 games.

Battle of the stars

Bradley Wright-Phillips and the New York Red Bulls host Carlos Vela and LAFC in Sunday’s national TV matchup.

It’s a first matchup between Red Bulls coach Chris Armas and his former coach, Bob Bradley, where the two teamed up for the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup double in Chicago. Meanwhile, both teams have been successful in the attack this year. The Red Bulls and LAFC are two of just five teams averaging 1.9 expected goals per game or more, per Opta.

One of the big battles to keep an eye on is Adama Diomande against Aaron Long. The young centerback is returning from a confidence-boosting All-Star game appearance but Diomande has been one of the best strikers in MLS since joining.