2017 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round Preview: Atlanta United vs Columbus Crew SC

Columbus Crew SC travel to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first time this season as they take on Atlanta United in the 2017 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round.

2017 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round Preview: Atlanta United vs Columbus Crew SC
2017 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round Preview: Atlanta United vs Columbus Crew SC | Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski - USA Today

Although neither team could secure the second seed in the Eastern Conference, both Columbus Crew SC and Atlanta United FC are set to highlight one of the knockout round matches in this year's playoffs. 

Columbus is coming into this match after playing to a 2-2 stalemate with New York City FCOn the other hand, Atlanta also played to a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC

This matchup is set to be explosive.

2017 Audi MLS Cup Playoff preview

In the last match against NYCFC, striker Ola Kamara got Columbus on the board, when he converted an over-the-top ball from midfielder Federico Higuain and shot the ball one-time past keeper Sean Johnson. 

NYC captain David Villa would equalize to put the game level at 1-1. Villa would then double the lead for NYC when shot from the top of the 18-yard box went past goalkeeper Zack Steffen just before halftime. 

Columbus wasn't done yet, when, in the 58th minute, center back Josh Williams scored a rising header from a corner kick, giving him his third goal in three games. 

As the game neared its entirety, NYC was awarded a penalty kick for a trip in the box by Steffen. Villa, sitting on a hattrick, stepped up to take the kick but was met with a huge right hand save by Steffen.

Defender Harrison Afful has also been fined an undisclosed amount by the Disciplinary Committee for embellishment.  

Atlanta United's previous match

As mentioned before, Atlanta played to a wild 2-2 draw with league leaders and Supporter's Shield winners Toronto. 

Atlanta was on their way to a 2-1 victory, but forward Sebastian Giovinco had other ideas. 

As time was wandering down, Gio nailed a free kick, past keeper Brad Guzan to tie the match. Atlanta would secure the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference while Toronto remained at the top. 

Artur (left) and Miguel Almiron (right) battle for possession. | Photo: Brett Davis - USA Today Sports
Artur (left) and Miguel Almiron (right) battle for possession. | Photo: Brett Davis - USA Today Sports

Previous matchup: Crew SC v Atlanta

The last time that these two teams met, Atlanta United pulled away with a 2-0 win back in July. Atlanta also won the first meeting between the two 3-1. All three Designated players got on the scoresheet for the Three Stripes, while Higuain was the lone goal scorer for the Black and Gold. 

Projected lineups

Both teams will throw all their star power at one another. Here are the projected lineups, starting with the road Columbus Crew SC. Columbus is managed by Head Coach and Sporting Director Gregg Berhalter. Columbus will most likely make two changes in right back and defensive mid. Hector Jimenez will fill in for Jukka Raitala and Artur will replace Mohammed Abu. 

Here is the projected lineup for home side Atlanta United. They are managed by Head Coach Tata Martino. Atlanta United will make no changes in their lineup.

The match will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. The match official will be Allen Chapman. His assistants are Jeremy Hanson and  Andrew Bigelow. The fourth official will be Chris Penso, while Fotis Bozakos will be the VAR. 

This match will mean a lot to Crew SC if they can pull out a win. Last week, owner and investor Anthony Precourt made a public statement that he is exploring strategic options to relocate the team to Austin, Texas. 

Projection

Berhalter told the media that they weren't going to be scared of Atlanta. 

"We know they’re a good team. We’re going to have a lot of respect for them, a lot of respect for the environment the stadium has, but we’re not going to be scared.”

Columbus will need to play their hearts out given what's happened within the past week. Atlanta will keep doing what they do best, and that's playing the sport with their Southern Swag. However, only one team can make it out alive, and the star power Atlanta has is hard to contain. But if Columbus can connect well with Justin Meram and Kamara -- Also Higuain in the midfield -- this matchup will be 'lit.'

Atlanta United 3-2 Columbus Crew SC AET