(Photo credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
Two sides with their sights set on the playoffs will square off when Atlanta United host CF Montreal on Saturday.
Atlanta (12-8-10, 46 points) is sixth in the Eastern Conference table, two points out of third place and can clinch a playoff spot with a win.
"They know the importance of (Saturday's) match," coach Gonzalo Pineda said. "You can feel like that might be coming soon, clinching playoffs. I hope we can do it this weekend. But after that, of course, we want to really pursue the main goal for the regular season, being top four, we need those three points."
Atlanta is unbeaten in its past three matches, with a win between a pair of draws. The club is 9-3-3 on their home pitch this season but has alternated wins with either a draw or a loss over its past 10 home matches dating back to mid-May, going 5-3-2 in that stretch.
"We were frustrated with dropping points against Dallas (2-2 draw) when we were winning that game and controlling that game, and the same thing against D.C. (United, 1-1 draw)," midfielder Matheus Rossetto said. "But all the players believe in what we're doing. We're just focused on this next game and the mentality is good."
Midfielder Saba Lobjanidze, who made his MLS debut on Aug. 26, has contributed to five goals in his five league matches, scoring three times and adding two assists. He's been directly involved with each of Atlanta's last three goals (one goal, two assists).
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan did not train Friday as he was feeling under the weather, but the team is optimistic he'll be available to play.
Montreal (11-14-4, 37 points) remains in eighth place in the Eastern Conference after settling for draws in each of its past two matches. The club is one point up on D.C. United, who hold the last playoff spot, and three ahead of New York City FC, who are just below the line.
The Canadian side came close to securing the three points against league-leading FC Cincinnati, maintaining a 1-0 lead from early in the second half into the final minute of stoppage time before Cincinnati leveled it on a penalty kick.
"We have to look at the positive, the fact that we were very competitive against the best team in the league," coach Hernan Losada said. "We could have won right up until the last minute, but now we have to concentrate on the rest of the season.
Kwadwo Opoku has been a solid addition since Montreal acquired him from Los Angeles FC in July. The 22-year-old forward has scored two of his three goals in the past three matches, bringing him within one of the team lead despite playing just 614 minutes.
--Field Level Media