Atlanta United defender Caleb Wiley insists the side will be ready for the challenge of facing high-flying Austin after going three MLS games without a win.
Gonzalo Pineda’s Atlanta sit 11th in the Eastern Conference, five points short of the playoffs, after following up consecutive defeats at Toronto and New York Red Bulls with a draw at New York City.
While Wiley is aware of the threat posed by in-form Austin, he says the Five Stripes will be ready for the test at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“They’re definitely a good team, they’re going to come out flying,” Wiley said. “Very high press, great individual players, great team overall.
“We’ve just got to be ready for it, we were working on building out and the things we can break them down with, and it’s going to be a good game.”
Austin, meanwhile, are second in the Western Conference after winning back-to-back games, but full-back Jon Gallagher – a former Atalanta player – does not expect an easy ride in Georgia.
“Mercedes-Benz is a tough place to go,” Gallagher said. “I obviously experienced it myself as the home side.
“When that atmosphere gets going it’s a tough place to play, but it’s the same when teams come to Q2, so it’s nothing we haven’t handled before.”
Austin have recovered from two goals down to earn a result four times this season – including against Colorado last time out, and the left-back believes that tendency is a consequence of Austin’s team spirit.
“The squad’s got good belief, a good togetherness,” he added. “Regardless of the deficit, we always seem to have the confidence that we can get back in the game.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Atlanta United – Josef Martinez
Martinez has scored on each of his last three starts on home soil, and is the Five Stripes’ top MLS goalscorer with five strikes to date this season. The Venezuelan marksman, a true Atlanta great, will be needed if the hosts are to shake off their malaise.
Austin FC – Maximiliano Urruti
While Sebastian Driussi has stolen the headlines with 10 league goals for Austin this season, his compatriot Urruti has added six of his own from a far lower expected goals (xG) tally, and should offer Driussi valuable support once more in Georgia.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the first MLS meeting between Atlanta United and Austin FC. Atlanta have won four of their five previous home matches against Texas teams (L1).
– Atlanta United have won two of their last 12 MLS matches (D4 L6), with both wins coming over teams currently outside the playoffs. In fact, all five of Atlanta United’s victories in 2022 have come over teams that would miss the postseason if the season ended now.
– Austin FC came from 2-0 down to beat Colorado 3-2 on Monday night. It was the fifth time this season that Austin had trailed by multiple goals, though Austin has lost only one of those matches, coming back to win twice and draw twice.
– Josef Martinez has contributed to 11 goals (8 goals, 3 assists) in his last nine MLS starts at Mercedes Benz Stadium dating back to last September.
– Sebastian Driussi and Maxi Urruti both scored in Austin’s comeback win over Colorado on Monday, the third time this season that both players scored in the same match. No pair of teammates have scored in the same match more often than Driussi and Urruti this season (3 other pairs have done so 3 times).