4. Different Atlanta team
The September 30 match against Red Bulls exposed a weak, unprepared Atlanta United. That 2-0 loss was excruciating and the Five Stripes looked like a different team (in the worst way) the rest of the regular season. That poor form culminated in a 4-1 Decision Day loss against Toronto that saw Atlanta lose their grip on the Supporters Shield.
Since that Decision Day loss, Atlanta have been a completely different team. Starting with their first match against NYCFC, the Five Stripes have played with a fire and physicality not seen in their first two seasons in the league up to that point.
This new Atlanta team is dominating its opponents. After finally defeating Red Bulls and capturing the series win, Atlanta can feel good about its playoff turnaround. It may have taken a 4-1 beatdown and a subsequent and important locker room discussion, but it can be assumed that those talks were a big turning point for a team struggling.
Atlanta are different now. More importantly, they have many tactical identities they can employ in the MLS Cup Final. With a new grit behind those identities, they will be hard to stop.