Atlanta United vs. Inter Miami: 3 things to watch

Atlanta United played Inter Miami on Wednesday in MLS action in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Credit: MLS

Credit: MLS

Atlanta United missed a chance to take an important step in securing a spot in the MLS playoffs when it lost to the Red Bulls on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

A good thing, if there is one, with the compressed schedule is Atlanta United will get another chance to get three important points Wednesday when it plays at Miami.

If Atlanta United (5-9-3) wins, it at least will remain in 10th place in the East. The top 10 teams will qualify for the playoffs.

If Atlanta United loses, it likely will drop below 10th because Miami, which trails Atlanta United by one point, is in 11th. The league’s other results will determine the team’s place. Miami is one of the team’s six remaining games.

“The lads know the magnitude of the game,” Atlanta United interim manager Stephen Glass said.

They do.

“It’s so tight at bottom of table if you go one way or another within the space of a week we can jump to the sixth or seventh spot or be down at the bottom of the table,” striker Jon Gallagher said.

Here are three things to watch about the game:

Atlanta United’s record. Atlanta United has yet to win a game in Florida or against a team from Florida this season.

It is 0-2-1 against Inter Miami with a 0-0 draw at home Sept. 2, a 2-1 loss in Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 9 and a 2-1 loss at home Sept. 19.

Miami has gotten stronger since with the addition of striker Gonzalo Higuain as a Designated Player, and it traded with D.C. United for his older brother, Federico Higuain, last week.

With Gonzalo Higuain in the lineup, Miami has won its past two games. It has switched to three in the back and is playing aggressively up the wings. He has one goal in four appearances.

“We’ve handled games against them pretty well, in my opinion,” Glass said. “Their shape and system becomes irrelevant if we impose ourselves upon the game.”

Moreno’s impact. Marcelino Moreno, Atlanta United’s newest Designated Player, started his first game Saturday.

Though he didn’t score, shoot or create a chance, his impact was noticeable.

“Kind of the player we’ve been missing, who can sit in pockets in front of opposition’s back four and pick passes,” Gallagher said. “He’s a really composed player on the ball. When a player can slow the game down now, you notice how he pops into pockets and plays on the half turn and switch it out.”

Should Moreno start, he could prove important against Miami, which likely will try to press Atlanta United when it has the ball. Doing so will create opportunities if Atlanta United can win its one-on-one battles. If Moreno wins his one-on-one battles, there will be space for him to exploit and force Miami’s defenders to make choices.

Scoring. Atlanta United has been shut out seven times this season, including three of its past four games.

When Atlanta United doesn’t score first, it doesn’t win. It is 5-0-0 when it scores first. It is 0-9-1 when it concedes first.

“I think we’ve been a little unfortunate in front of goal,” midfielder Jurgen Damm said. “We have to convert chances and be more accurate in attacking phase of the game.”

The team could get a boost in that area with the return of Erick Torres to training. Glass didn’t say Monday whether Torres would be available for the game against Miami.

Atlanta United coming games

Wednesday at Miami (3-7-2), 8 p.m., FSSE

Sunday at Toronto (6-2-4) in Hartford, Conn., 7:30 p.m., FSSE

Oct. 24 vs. D.C. United (2-5-5), 4 p.m., FSSE

Oct. 28 at Orlando (6-2-4), 7:30 p.m., FS1

Nov. 1 vs. Cincinnati (3-6-3), 7 p.m., FSSE

Nov. 8 at Columbus (8-1-3), 3:30 p.m., FSSE

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