Tonight, D.C. United welcome Atlanta United to Audi Field in another crucial match in the host’s postseason push.
Holding firm through the turbulence of Matchday 32, D.C. remains in ninth place. Clutching to the last playoff spot, they have no time for complacency in this final stretch of the season as they only edge out tenth-place Chicago Fire by two points.
Eight points is the razor-thin margin that separates eighth-place CF Montréal from fourteenth-place Inter Miami. Atlanta United look all but assured a postseason spot as they sit comfortably in sixth place, nine points clear of the first playoff slot, held by Montréal.
Going into the match, the teams have had differing results in their past few games. Atlanta United are on a good run of form, winning three of their last five (including a 5-2 rout against Inter Miami last weekend) and only losing once (a narrow 2-1 loss against first-place FC Cincinnati).
D.C. has had a rougher stretch, losing twice, winning once (an impressive 4-0 victory against the Chicago Fire), and playing out two scoreless draws in their last two matches. The stage is set for an intriguing matchup as Atlanta will look to utilize their strength in attack, while D.C. will be looking to build to a fourth consecutive clean sheet.
Key Player: Christian Benteke
The Belgian striker has looked more like his old self in D.C. United’s previous three matches, despite the team being shut out entirely in the past two. After 720 minutes without a goal in league play, Benteke scored twice and notched an assist in D.C.’s 4-0 demolition of the Chicago Fire on matchday 30. Since then, he’s been a much more notable presence in the D.C. front line, holding up play, creating chances, and looking dominant in the air. While he’s looked much better the past few matches, he hasn’t been perfect, misplacing passes and leaving a bit to be desired in the finishing department. Nonetheless, he perpetually holds the potential to be the game changer for D.C., and his recent form indicates why.
Watch out for: Thiago Almada
The young Argentine has taken the league by storm since his arrival last season, scoring and assisting for fun with impressive variety. Free kicks, tap-ins, crosses, through balls. You name it, he’s got it. Primarily an attacking midfielder, but adept on either wing, the recent World Cup winner has the most goal contributions in the league this season with nine goals and thirteen assists. D.C. fans should be wary of him for obvious reasons.
D.C. United Availability:
Out: Martin Rodriguez (long-term knee), Mohanad Jeahze (long-term ankle), Tyler Miller (season-ending shoulder), Derrick Williams (calf)
Questionable: Steven Birnbaum (hip), Andy Najar (thigh), Ted Ku-DiPietro (thigh)
Atlanta United Availability:
Out: Osvaldo Alonso (knee)
Location: Audi Field, Washington, D.C.
Kickoff Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Referee: Lukasz Szpala
Available streaming: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV