Atlanta United focusing on what it can control Sunday

Atlanta United Forward Jon Gallagher (26) controls the ball during the second half of a MLS game against the New York Red Bulls at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in Atlanta. Branden Camp/For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta United Forward Jon Gallagher (26) controls the ball during the second half of a MLS game against the New York Red Bulls at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in Atlanta. Branden Camp/For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Two Atlanta United players, Jon Gallagher and Fernando Meza, said on Thursday that they are going to focus on trying to win Sunday’s game against Columbus and not worry about the other results the team needs in order to make the playoffs.

There are myriad scenarios that could see the Five Stripes qualify for the postseason for the fourth consecutive year, but the easiest is for it to defeat the struggling Crew and have Montreal lose or draw with D.C. United, or Chicago lose or draw its finale with NYCFC in their meetings on Sunday. Atlanta United is in 11th place in the East with 21 points. Montreal is in the 10th and final playoff spot. The Impact lead the Five Stripes by one point in the standings.

“We are trying to be positive,” Gallagher said. “The season, the hardest part for us is trying to stay positives through tough times and challenges. Results last night went our way. It gives us hope that if we win there’s still a strong chance we can make it.”

Chicago had an opportunity Wednesday to take the ninth playoff spot but blew a lead in a 2-2 draw with Minnesota. Chicago also leads Atlanta United by one point in the standings.

“If we win and things go our way there is still a lot to play for this season,” Meza said.

Other teams in play for a playoff spot for Inter Miami and D.C. United, who are tied with Atlanta United on points.

Gallagher said he doesn’t think the players are going to try to find out the scores of the other games at halftime. He said he’s never experienced anything like Sunday, other than when watching seven games in the Premier League at the same time.

“At the final whistle, hopefully someone will give us good news,” he said.

Meza said Atlanta United received a boost of confidence from its 2-0 win against Cincinnati in its previous game. The victory snapped a six-game winless streak.

Columbus is trending the opposite direction. Its 2-1 loss to Orlando on Wednesday eliminated it in the race for the Supporters' Shield and put it in danger of losing homefield advantage in the playoffs. In fourth place, Columbus leads NYCFC by two points. The Crew have won just two of their past nine games. Still, Columbus features numerous talented players including striker Gyasi Zardes, who is second in MLS with 11 goals, former Atlanta United midfielder Darlington Nagbe, attacker Lucas Zelarayan and goalkeeper Eloy Room, who leads a defense that has allowed a league-low 20 goals this season.

Gallagher said the team has spent the past few days putting in its game plan and is confident it can do the job to get the necessary result on Sunday.

“It will take a performance from all 11 guys,” Gallagher said.

Atlanta United coming games

Sunday at Columbus (11-6-5), 3:30 p.m., FSSE

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