MLS

Atlanta United v Houston Dynamo: Valentino looking to bring back enjoyment for Five Stripes

By Sports Desk June 14, 2024

Atlanta United interim head coach Rob Valentino is hoping to get off to a positive start when they welcome Houston Dynamo to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Atlanta announced on June 3 that they had parted ways with Gonzalo Pineda, with Valentino stepping into his shoes with the Five Stripes sitting 13th in the Eastern Conference.

They have won just one of their last 11 matches in the MLS – beating Inter Miami 3-1 – but defeat to Charlotte FC last time out spelt the end for Pineda.

"I want to get back to that enjoyment," Valentino said. "How we can find that every day, on and off the field - and shared success.

"When you look at teams and organizations, it is not one person's fault, it is shared in terms of where we are. There is that responsibility and accountability.

"But on the other side of it, I want there to be shared success. We really want to enjoy the day-to-day. I think that is going to be the message going forward from myself."

Meanwhile, Houston are seventh in the Western Conference after losing just two of their seven matches before the mid-season break.

Having ended their scoreless run in May, head coach Ben Olsen is keen to ensure their good run in front of goal continues.

"Even on the road, we're putting up numbers," said Olsen. "We're constantly working to fine-tune some things and push the guys in making real actions and moving with conviction in the final third.

"[Not scoring] was a frustrating period for us, so now, hopefully, the goal stays big for us. There's a lot still to be desired, but I'm looking forward to being back at work."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Atlanta United – Thiago Almada

Almada scored his fourth goal of the campaign in Atlanta's defeat to Charlotte FC last time out, making him joint-second in the team’s scoring charts this season. He is now just one behind top scorer Giorgos Giakoumakis.

Houston Dynamo – Sebastian Kowalczyk

Kowalczyk has scored in consecutive games for the Dynamo after having found the net just once in his first 21 career MLS matches. Kowalczyk is the third Dynamo player to score in consecutive appearances this season after Latif Blessing, Ibrahim Aliyu.

MATCH PREDICTION: ATLANTA UNITED WIN

The home side has won all three meetings between Atlanta and Houston. The home side have outscored the visitors 13-1 in the three games, with the hosts scoring at least four times in all three meetings.

However, Atlanta have lost a club-record five straight regular-season home matches. Prior to this run, Atlanta had never lost more than two consecutive home league games before.

Since moving to the Western Conference in 2015, the Dynamo have managed just five wins in 41 away matches against Eastern foes (D9 L27). Since the start of the 2019 season, Houston have lost 14 of 19 away matches against the East (W2 D3).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Atlanta United – 44%

Draw – 26.8%

Houston Dynamo – 29.2%

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    FC Cincinnati win – 66.1%

    Draw – 18.4%

    Chicago Fire win – 15.5%

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