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Thiago Almada back as Atlanta United battle Red Bulls

Mar 18, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada (23) celebrates with teammates after a goal against the Portland Timbers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United seek a bounce-back performance — and will get some key players back to help on that quest — when they host the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night.

The Columbus Crew spanked Atlanta 6-1 last Saturday, marking the club record for most goals allowed and worst margin of defeat since its inception in 2017.

Atlanta (3-1-1, 10 points) had seven regular players out on international duty, including USMNT defender Miles Robinson and Argentine midfielder Thiago Almada. While Robinson’s return will shore up the back line, Almada is expected to help in the attack after his torrid start to the campaign.

Almada has an MLS-best eight goal contributions: four goals and four assists through four appearances. He posted two goals and two assists on March 18 when Atlanta drubbed the Portland Timbers 5-1.

The Red Bulls are 9-1-4 all-time against Atlanta United, with Atlanta’s lone win coming in the 2018 playoffs. Atlanta coach Gonzalo Pineda is planning to stick to his usual strategy of playing through the Red Bulls’ press.

“If I can control the ball, I can control the game. That’s my thought process,” Pineda told reporters. “And yes, I know it’s going to be a big challenge. Yes, it’s one of the toughest opponents for this style.

“They actually like, I assume, the way we play. That’s what suits them. But it’s the same for us: It’s, ‘Can we be that good?’ And that’s what is on the line.”

The Red Bulls’ high-pressure defense has done its part, yielding just one shot on goal at Charlotte last week, making it seven shots on target and four goals on the season.

Yet, New York (1-1-3, 6 points) drew 1-1 with Charlotte FC after Andres Reyes’ own goal tied the match in the 74th minute.

“This is not the behavior I normally see from my boys in the second half,” Red Bulls coach Gerhard Struber said. “It was not what I expected. It was not what my team expected. We cannot be happy to fly home with one point from Charlotte.”

Elias Manoel scored the goal for New York, just the club’s fourth goal through five matches.

Struber is confident ahead of the matchup with Atlanta.

“We know what is coming,” he told the New York Post, “and we know what they hate.”

–Field Level Media