Jonathan Mensah scored the lone goal and game-winner the last time Atlanta United faced the Black & Gold, just two weeks prior at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This time, Columbus will have the home-field advantage as they return to Lower.com Field to face the Five Stripes on Military Appreciation Night pres. by AEP (7:30 p.m. ET, Bally Sports Ohio, 97.1 FM The Fan).
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The Crew is looking to bounce back from two straight defeats, in which the Black & Gold conceded four goals each. Atlanta might be the matchup that breaks the slump, as Columbus has seen historical success against the Five Stripes, winning the last five meetings and outscoring ATLUTD 9-2 in that stretch. The Crew is the first team to defeat the Five Stripes five straight times in Atlanta’s MLS history. The Crew lost the first four regular-season meetings between the sides.
Atlanta has had struggles of their own, not just of late, but for the whole of the 2021 season. The 2018 MLS Cup Champions haven't won a match since May 15, have sacked their manager in Gabriel Heinze, and have picked up just 2 points from the last 5 matches.
The visitors come to Columbus with a bit of momentum, though, as Atlanta United came from 2-0 down to draw, 2-2, at CF Montréal on Wednesday, though their club-record winless run extended to 12 games (D7 L5).
Atlanta has failed to win any of the last five matches in which it scored more than one goal (D4 L1) after failing to win just four of the previous 35 games in which it scored two or more goals (W31 D1 L3) dating back to August 2018. While star striker Josef Martinez pulled a goal back earlier in the match, the Five Stripes will be without his services on Saturday, as he was sent off for violent conduct in the 82nd minute.
Columbus continues to gain key players back, as Gyasi Zardes got his first minutes returning from national team duty this Wednesday against D.C. United. Kevin Molino continued to start and scored his first goal as a Crew player this week, and Luis Diaz featured for the Black & Gold - a welcome sight for a team hampered by injuries and national team call-ups.
Darlington Nagbe completed 71-of-72 pass attempts against D.C. United on Wednesday, taking his passing accuracy rate to 96.5 percent for the season. He’s on pace to have the best passing accuracy in an MLS regular season since 2010 (minimum 500 passes), surpassing his own mark of 95.0 percent last season.
Three points will be the goal on Saturday before the Crew spends the next two weeks on the road, traveling to historical rivals Chicago Fire FC and New York Red Bulls before returning home for key matchups against Seattle, a 2020 MLS Cup championship rematch, and FC Cincinnati, the Crew's fledgling neighbors to the southwest.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.