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Atlanta United-Fire Preview
Surging Atlanta United FC appears set to get even stronger this week.
Back from international duty, star Josef Martinez is slated to be available when visiting Atlanta eyes a fourth win in five league matches Wednesday night against a Chicago Fire squad that has not won in nearly two months.
Atlanta (9-6-2) has certainly overcome a sluggish start to its post-MLS Cup title season and is 8-3-0 since April 27. Following last weekend's 2-1 home victory over Montreal, United coach Frank de Boer said Martinez is poised to be back on the pitch after playing for eliminated Venezuela at the Copa America.
"In Chicago, he will be there," de Boer told Atlanta's official website. "You know Josef, and he wants to score."
Martinez last played with the club on June 1, when he scored two of his team-leading 10 goals in a 2-0 home victory over Chicago (4-7-7). Martinez has actually recorded half of his MLS goals over his last three contests, and has five with an assist in five career matches against the Fire.
His expected return also helps Atlanta in terms of numbers with games on Wednesday and Sunday during this busy holiday week.
"It's tough for sure," United midfielder Julian Gressel said of the crowded slate. "But you look at the schedule at the beginning of the year and you know what's ahead. We have to be ready. As a group, we want to continue now to win games."
The same can't be said for the Fire, who are simply looking for just one victory to end an 0-3-3 rut that dates to back-to-back wins over New England and Minnesota on May 8 and 11, respectively. While Chicago is amid a rather impressive 4-0-3 stretch at home, it still must find a way to grab the full three points - which can start by finding the back of the net more frequently.
The Fire, who have managed two goals in their last three games overall and one each while drawing the last two at home, had numerous chances to score in Friday's frustrating 3-1 loss to the Red Bulls. Chicago outshot the hosts 26-10 overall, but had only Nemanja Nikolic's goal in the 81st minute to show for the effort.
Meanwhile, a gaffe by keeper Kenneth Kronholm led to New York's first goal in the eighth minute and Chicago allowed the Red Bulls to score on the counter for each of their other two strikes.
The Fire have dropped three in a row against Atlanta dating to their lone win in the series, at home in June 2017.
Updated July 1, 2019