Toronto FC head coach Javier Perez is remaining upbeat ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Atlanta United, despite his side’s loss of form.
The Reds enjoyed a new manager bounce when Perez replaced Chris Armas on an initial interim basis last month, but they have now gone four matches without a win.
Saturday’s late 2-1 loss to New England Revolution leaves Toronto bottom of the overall MLS standings and Perez knows the importance of responding against Atlanta.
“I always like to focus on the positives even if we left empty-handed against New England,” said Perez, who will now remain in charge until the end of the 2021 campaign.
“We have two very important games ahead of us and if we keep playing like we have been, we will definitely have more wins than losses and ties combined.
“We have to stay positive. We have to think forward and keep playing the way we played in our last match.”
While Toronto have struggled for any sort of consistency all season long, Atlanta have enjoyed an upturn in form under caretaker boss Rob Valentino.
United have won successive games for the first time since March 2020 and will be eager to extend that run in Valentino’s last match before Gonzalo Pineda officially takes charge.
“These wins have been important for the team’s momentum and confidence,” Valentino said following Sunday’s 1-0 home win against Los Angeles FC.
“To win a game where it was really tough, not pretty at times, says a lot about the team. I’m proud of them for finding a way to win a difficult match.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Atlanta United – Josef Martinez
The Venezuela international has scored in his last three appearances for Atlanta to make it five goals for the season in MLS. Those first two goals came from a run of nine matches, suggesting Martinez has finally found his scoring boots under Valentino.
Toronto FC – Jonathan Osorio
Osorio was back on the scoresheet for Toronto in their loss to the Revs, finding the net at club level for the first time since June. He linked up with Alejandro Pozuelo for a goal that looked as though it would earn his side a point. Regardless of the result, that partnership is going to be key to getting Toronto up the table.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Atlanta have managed just one win in eight meetings with Toronto (D3 L4, including playoffs). Toronto have won three straight matches against Atlanta – only Columbus Crew (five straight) have ever had a longer winning streak against the Five Stripes in MLS.
– United have won consecutive matches for the first time since the first two matches of the 2020 season. The 1-0 victory over LAFC on Sunday was Atlanta’s first home win since May 15 against CF Montreal, also a 1-0 win.
– Toronto’s 2-1 defeat to New England on Saturday was their tenth defeat of the 2021 season. TFC suffered more losses just once in the previous five MLS regular seasons dating back to 2016, losing 18 times in the 2018 campaign.
– Martinez is the only Atlanta player to score in four or more consecutive league matches, doing so on four separate occasions, including an MLS record run of 15 straight in May-September 2019.
– Pozuelo set up Osorio’s goal against the Revolution last weekend. It was the fourth time on Osorio’s last six MLS goals (including playoffs) that Pozuelo was the primary assister dating back to 2019.