By Jason Longshore

After a brutal stretch of six games out of seven played on the road, Atlanta United returns for back-to-back home games for the first time all season. The Houston Dynamo will make their first trip to Atlanta for Saturday night’s match at 7 p.m.

The Dynamo have an explosive offense and are currently tied for second place in the Western Conference with FC Dallas. Striker Cubo Torres is second in the league in goals scored while midfielder Alex is second in assists. Young attackers Romell Quioto and Mauro Manotas supplement the high-powered attack. Winger Alberth Elis is battling a hamstring pull and is questionable to be part of Saturday night’s match.

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Houston’s high flyers are bolstered by experience from a pair of U.S. National Team veterans. Left back DaMarcus Beasley, 34, started his professional career in Chicago in 2000 before stints in the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Germany, and Mexico. Still part of the national team, Beasley has made 124 appearances for the squad. Saturday will be special for 34-year-old midfielder Ricardo Clark as he returns home to Atlanta for the first time in a professional career. The St. Pius graduate has played in over 200 matches for the Dynamo between 2006-2009 and since returned to the team in 2012.

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While Houston has one of the best records in MLS, it has been accomplished despite poor form on the road. The Dynamo are yet to earn a point on the road with four losses. They have been outscored 10-2 in those four matches and come to Atlanta after a 2-0 loss on Wednesday night in Philadelphia to the Union.

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Atlanta United bounced back with a key 1-1 draw in Portland Sunday after consecutive 3-1 losses to D.C. United and NYCFC. Rookie midfielder Julian Gressel scored his first goal of the season early in the second half, but Timbers’ defender Liam Ridgewell headed home a free kick a few minutes later to equalize.

Pressure Points

  • In Houston’s road losses, early goals allowed have been an issue. In three of the four losses, the Dynamo conceded the first goal of the match before the 17th minute.
  • Houston’s wide attackers stay very high up the field, with the team often lining up in a 4-2-1-3 formation. Atlanta’s outside backs will have be smart in deciding when to join the Five Stripes’ attack.
  • Road teams have won 26 times so far this season in MLS out of 120 games. Two of those wins were in Bobby Dodd Stadium’s three matches.
  • The Dynamo lead the league in key long passes. They are not a team that generally likes to build up possession to create goal scoring opportunities, they would rather break open the defense with a long pass that utilizes the speed of their forwards.
  • While Atlanta is one of the fastest teams in MLS, Houston is right there with it. Romell Quioto is one of the few players in the league who can run with Tito Villalba.