Martinez aims to provide jolt as United hosts Crew (Jun 17, 2017)

BY AP • June 16, 2017

Atlanta United is in need of a spark after dropping its last two MLS matches.

The return of dynamic forward Josef Martinez could do the trick on Saturday, when the United host Columbus Crew SC at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Atlanta (5-6-3) tuned up for the Crew (7-8-1) with a 3-2 win over the Charleston Battery on Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup match that was delayed nearly three hours by inclement weather.

The match marked the return of Martinez to the United starting lineup after a more than two-month absence. Martinez got off to a hot start to the season with five goals in his first two games before suffering a thigh injury that kept him sidelined.

He played all 90 minutes against Charleston, something that frustrated United manager Gerardo Martino. It is uncertain if Martinez will start Saturday.

"The positive was we found a way to get through it, but we did make a lot of errors and the team didn't really follow the game plan we had going into the game," Martino told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Wednesday's win.

"I don't think it was a chemistry problem because all of these guys train together every day," Martino added. "It is true that this 11 hasn't started an official game together, but they train everyday so we know that whoever plays they are comfortable with whatever we want to do. I don't think chemistry was an issue. I think it was more lack of motivation and we weren't thinking things through."

The Crew doesn't arrive in Atlanta in good form. Columbus dropped two of its last three MLS contests and was shut out by Cincinnati, 1-0, Wednesday.

The Crew hopes to rebound Saturday, but is wary of Atlanta's up-tempo attack.

"They're very, very attack-oriented," Columbus forward Niko Hansen said of Atlanta. "They like to keep the game at a high tempo. I think we've emulated that in training and tried to look to where we can find success because of the high tempo and high press and how to get on their weaknesses."

Columbus and Atlanta met in the preseason, with the Crew pulling out a 2-1 victory. Midfielder Federico Higuain scored both goals for Columbus.

Midfielder Justin Meram leads the Crew with eight goals, tying him for the third-most in MLS.

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