Atlanta United returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday for a nationally televised contest against LAFC. The 5-Stripes are coming off an excellent 3-2 road victory at the defending MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew. The club strengthened the squad at the end of the transfer window last week and is looking to carry all that momentum into Sunday’s match and the rest of the season. Sunday’s meeting will be just the third time these two franchises have faced off against each other with both teams winning at home in the previous two meetings. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
Barco and Moreno coming into great form
Atlanta United’s Argentine midfield duo has been in great form over the last few matches. Ezequiel Barco scored a brace for the second time in his Atlanta career. He led the team with 83 touches, five total shots, and four shots on target. He created four chances as well and put his stamp on the match. His combination play with Marcelino Moreno and the other Atlanta midfielders and attackers was impressive.
Moreno continued his excellent form, scoring for the third match running. The Argentine has been one of the best midfielders in the league over the last month. In fact, Moreno leads all MLS players with 22 created chances since July 17. His dribbling success rate is among the best in the league, which was evident last week when he won two penalties through dribbling by Columbus players in the box. Keeping Barco and Moreno on this level will be key for Atlanta on Sunday against LAFC.
Contain the usual suspects of LAFC
LAFC features a potent attack that hasn’t quite gotten running yet this season. Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi have scored five goals each, which is tied for the team lead. Vela’s five assists also lead the team and make him the most dangerous attacking player that LAFC possess. It will be incumbent on Atlanta United’s defense to make sure to keep Vela and company in check.
Another player to keep an eye on is Eduard Atuesta, who runs the LAFC midfield. Atuesta ranks second on the team with 25 created chances, only trailing Jose Cifuentes (27) who is having a breakout season. Winning the battle in the middle of the park will go a long way to Atlanta United winning its second match in a row.
Score early and often
“Goals change games” is an expression that rings true in the beautiful game. Atlanta United has seen the impact of early goals throughout its history. The 5-Stripes own a 59-10-13 (W-L-T) mark when scoring first all-time in MLS Regular Season play. Last time out, the team scored three goals for the second time this season. Atlanta is undefeated in those matches. In fact, since joining the league in 2017, Atlanta is 30-1-2 when scoring three or more goals in a regular season match. Atlanta needs to come out and carry over the momentum from the win in Columbus and score early and often to get the crowd behind them and collect three points on Sunday.
Kickoff is set for 4:00 p.m. ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Fans can tune into ESPN or listen on the radio on Sports Radio 92.9 The Game to catch the action.