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New York City FC are on the road Wednesday night as they take on Atlanta United.

Here’s the Keys to the Match, presented by Tri-State Ford…

Hot Streak

The last time New York City FC met Atlanta United the Five Stripes were mired in a difficult period under Gabriel Heinze.

To say things have changed since then would be more than fair. Gonzalo Pineda replaced Heinze in the dugout, and since August 1, they’ve played 13 games — winning nine, losing three and drawing just once. Only New England Revolution have collected more points. Pineda has done an impressive job turning things around in Atlanta, and has been boosted by the arrival of former Lille attacker Luiz Araujo.

The 25-year-old has added two goals and an assist during his time with the club, and will be one of several key attacking pieces that NYCFC will need to watch.

Crunch Time

Five games to go.

That’s all that remain in the 2021 MLS Regular Season, and the importance of Wednesday’s game cannot be understated. NYCFC slipped below the playoff line at the weekend, and in Atlanta they find themselves taking on a direct rival for a postseason place.

A win on Wednesday would see the Boys in Blue overtake Atlanta, and if results go their way they could easily reach as high as fifth. Three of the club’s last five games are against playoff rivals, and the hope is they can navigate those high-pressure situations and extend their campaign with a playoff run.

Go Short, Go Fast

One of the tactical themes of late that Ronny Deila discussed on Tuesday was his side’s direct approach.

"We've been a bit too direct,” Deila said. "We need to be a little more patient in what we're doing. Have more time to find the right passes and more alternatives."

The foundation of NYCFC’s style is short passing as a method to open up opponents. A return to that more patient, probing, approach is vital. The Hudson River Derby is more often than not a physical battle, and the game against Atlanta provides a different test, but also a setting that is more conducive to possession-based soccer.

Deila has also discussed his desire to see his team simplify their approach. A shift to keeping it short and simple on Wednesday could be the turning point the team need in their hunt for a playoff spot.