After a hard-fought road loss on the west coast, a quick chance for redemption for Atlanta United as they host the Houston Dynamo at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday. Houston and Atlanta have faced off twice in their history, with the home team winning each time. The Five Stripes will be hoping the rowdy and proud 17s will roar them on to another home victory.
Wednesday night’s matchup will be broadcast on Fox Sports South at 7 p.m. EST. Click here for all the ways to tune in.
Atlanta United (9-8-3)
Atlanta United are coming off a frustrating run of games with some uncharacteristically dropped points. But as they sit within striking distance of first place in the Eastern Conference, all they need is one complete performance to get their title defense back on track.
There's no doubt that injuries are taking a toll. Brek Shea's season-ending knee surgery is a tough addition to an injury list already including Ezequiel Barco, George Bello, Kevin Kratz, Florentin Pogba and Tito Villalba. But the emergence of players like Justin Meram, Dion Pereira and Brandon Vazquez has shown there's a next-man-up mentality in the squad. Pity Martínez's influence grows every match, with a goal and an assist in his past two appearances. And then of course there's Josef Martinez,whose nine goals in his past six matches has him sitting at 13 goals in the league this season –– tied for second in MLS.
They sit in front of a defensive half that is looking to get out of a funk, with goalkeeper Brad Guzan calling on himself and his teammates to be better in their half of the field after Sunday’s loss in Seattle. Adding to the injury bug this match will be the suspension of Franco Escobar for yellow card accumulation. But while injuries are taking their toll, the red, black and gold can take comfort in their home form this year. Outside of their 3-3 draw with the Red Bulls, the Five Stripes have been a lockdown defensive side at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season with just five goals conceded in nine matches. They’ll be hoping for a return to form on defense to help them stop a three-match winless league run.
Houston Dynamo (8-8-3)
The Houston Dynamo come into the match in a bit of a slump, with six losses in their past seven matches. Their one road win in 8 matches away from Houston is one of the worst road forms in the league this season. But don’t let their position outside of the playoff places fool you –– the Dynamo has the pieces to threaten any defense.
When Houston is playing well it’s often due in no small part to the play of Alberth Elis, one of the most dynamic attacking players in the league. With jawdropping speed and quickness on the dribble, Elis is equally capable of setting up his teammates or finishing himself as he cuts in from the left wing as one of the most complete attackers in this league. But Atlanta United can’t give him all their attention with Elis’ Honduran international teammate Romell Quioto bringing technique and attacking skill cutting in from the opposite wing. With Tomas Martinez providing the attacking momentum up the middle of the park, Houston’s dynamic attack is rounded off by Colombian striker Mauro Manotas, whose 19 goals was among the league’s best last year.
But for every goal Houston has scored on the road this year, they have conceded two –– so Atlanta United will be optimistic they can create chances of their own against a Houston Dynamo defense giving up nearly three goals per game in their past four road matches. Boniek Garcia and Matias Vera have been the first-choice central midfield in front of center backs Aljaz Struna and veteran Honduran international Maynor Figueroa, while Adam Lundqvist and Adolph Joseph fill out the flanks in the back line protecting Joe Willis in the Houston goal. Only three goalkeepers in the league have been forced into more saves than Willis so far this year –– if Atlanta United can find the corners with their finishing and take advantage of an early opportunity, they’ll put the visitors on the back foot and ignite a rowdy home crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It’s a much-anticipated return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for an Atlanta United side eager to get back in the win column. And with a bad taste still in their mouths from last year’s loss in Houston, the Five Stripes will want to put on a good performance in front of their home fans. Make sure you’re cheering on the Five Stripes at 7:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports South Wednesday; buy tickets here or click here for all the ways to tune in.