After a brief two-week break in action, Atlanta United are set to make a massive return to league play as they officially open their new home in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta (10-8-6) are hoping to add on to an impressive home record and thrive on the atmosphere produced by the ATL supporters, while Dallas (9-7-10), winless in their last seven matches, are looking to turn around their recent form and show why they earned the 2016 Supporters’ Shield.
The first-ever match in Mercedes-Benz Stadium marks the 10th straight sellout for the expansion side, but if you don’t have a ticket, you can catch all the action of the historic match on Sunday afternoon starting at 3:30 p.m. EST on FS1 or via FOX Sports Go.
Atlanta United (10-8-6)
Fans, players and anyone involved with the club have been anticipating this moment for almost three years now: the opening of Atlanta United’s home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta. While the state-of-the-art facility was under its final construction, ATL UTD managed to turn Bobby Dodd Stadium into quite the fortress for the Red, Black and Gold during its inaugural season finishing with a 6-2-1 record after nine games at the temporary home.
After losing two of their first three MLS home games, Atlanta is now unbeaten in their last six outscoring the opposition 16-6 over the course of those games and in addition have only dropped one match in their last eight regular season matches. Sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings with a few games in hand on the rest of the league and a hefty home stretch to finish the regular season, Atlanta United have set themselves up nicely to make a run at the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Head coach Tata Martino has his side playing an attractive, attacking, fast-paced game which has tallied a total of 44 goals through 24 matches. Leading that number is 23-year-old Argentine Tito Villalba who’s recorded 10 on the year and close behind him is the nifty Venezuelan forward Josef Martinez with nine and the Paraguayan maestro, Miguel Almirón who has eight of his own.
The attack has been caught the attention of most, but it’s the team’s impressive effort on the other side of the ball that has flown under the radar only conceding 32 times this season which ranks third best in the league. Led by U.S. international goalkeeper Brad Guzan and team captain Michael Parkhurst, Atlanta will look to remain solid along the back line as they take on FC Dallas for the first time in the history of the two clubs.
FC Dallas (9-7-10)
After taking the MLS Supporters’ Shield last season, FC Dallas haven’t quite returned to their same form in 2017. After drawing 2-2 with New York Red Bulls last week, the Western Conference club is winless in their last seven games, their longest winless run since an eight-game streak in 2014. If their recent dip in form continues, Dallas could see themselves drop out of playoff contention as they sit in sixth place and teeter the qualification line.
Despite recent struggles, Dallas boast one of the strongest academies in Major League Soccer and currently have nine Homegrown players on its roster including U.S. international midfielder Kellyn Acosta. Just like Atlanta, Dallas also possesses some South American flair among the likes of crafty Mauro Diaz as well as leading goal scorer (12) Maximiliano Urruti both from Argentina. In addition, Colombian midfielder Michael Barrios who has recorded 13 assists on the year, tied for third in the league in that category this season.
Dallas have plenty of firepower up front and have proven themselves to be one of the strongest MLS sides the league has ever seen. However, Atlanta have only lost once to Western Conference opponents in nine games this year and have only lost twice at home in Atlanta, so Dallas will face quite the test on Sunday afternoon as they travel to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
- FOX Sports GO