Atlanta hosts road-challenged Houston
After a grueling seven-game stretch that included six road trips, the Atlanta United return home for back-to-back games, starting with Saturday's tilt with the Houston Dynamo at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Houston (6-4-1) is on a quick turnaround, having lost on the road Wednesday. The Dynamo have dropped all four of their road games this season.
Atlanta (3-4-3) has exceeded expectations in its inaugural campaign with a possession-oriented style that has helped the United average an MLS-best 2.0 goals per match.
Atlanta picked up a hard-fought point on the road at Portland its last time out. Rookie midfielder Julian Gressel scored his first MLS goal in the 1-1 draw against the Timbers, who ended a four-game losing streak for Atlanta.
The Dynamo are coming off a 2-0 loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday. They fell behind by two goals in the first half and had to chase the entire second half. They created chances, with 11 chances, but couldn't finish and were shut out for the third straight road game.
"We create chances, we didn't finish and that's something that's not happening away. It's happening at home," Dynamo coach Wilmer Cabrera told reporters after the loss to Philadelphia. We have to make better adjustments.
"For a team that has been so good at home," Cabrera added, "we need to get better and demand move of ourselves (on the road)."
The United remain without leading goal-scorer Josef Martinez. Martinez scored five goals in the first three games, but has not seen the pitch since injuring his thigh while playing for the Venezuelan national team.
Atlanta plans to control the tempo of Saturday's match against a speedy Houston squad.
"We will try and do what we did in Portland, which is control the game," United defender Leandro Gonzalez told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. "We know that Houston is a really fast team. They have really fast wingers on both sides."
Forwards Erick Torres, Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto have combined for 17 goals. Torres is second in the MLS with eight goals.
"They are a team that runs a lot," Atlanta coach Gerardo Martino told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "You can see that they labor a lot in attack. You can see they are determined team in attack, especially the forward. We will have to see if that's the case against us."
Updated May 19, 2017