Atlanta United will try to get their season started on a positive note as they head on the road to face the Houston Dynamo in the 2018 MLS regular season opener. The Five Stripes came out 4-1 winners against their Western Conference counterparts in their only meeting last year, but there’s been changes on both sides. Here’s what the red, black and gold can expect from the orange on Saturday:
The Honduran Creators
There’s no question who are the focal points of the Dynamo attack, with the two dynamic Honduran internationals Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto two of the fastest, most creative wingers in the league. The Dynamo likes to get them out in space to take on defenders one-on-one against spread-out opposition. Michael Parkhurst acknowledged this to reporters this week, saying they’ve been preparing for that against their own electric attacking teammates all season. Keeping the team disciplined and helping each other out on defense will prevent those one-on-one situations and limit Houston’s primary attacking threat.
Speed kills, and Houston has plenty of it with their attacking line. Houston will try to stay compact to force turnovers, then capitalize on their speedy front line with an explosive counter-attack. But with young designated player Tomas Martinez missing from the midfield, the Dynamo could struggle to open up the ATL UTD back line if they can’t produce those counter-attacking chances. Keeping the team shape and not over-committing people forward will be important for Atlanta, but it also presents a chance to fight Houston’s strength with their own counter-attacking prowess. If the Dynamo tries to throw numbers forward, it could break up their compact defense. And if Atlanta can create a turnover and take advantage of an exposed defense, it could lead to opportunities of their own as they spring forward with their high-flying attack.
Eyes on Arturo
While Houston seems to have their starting front three set, the offseason addition of Arturo Alvarez from the Chicago Fire provides an interesting change-up should Houston need an attacking spark in the second half. Alvarez has a game more based on skill than pace, and after some preseason success, would provide a different look in the Dynamo attacking threat. Atlanta will have to keep their attention on Houston’s speedy starts, but will have to make sure Houston’s change of pace doesn’t catch them off guard.
Follow the Match
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET and will be nationally broadcast on Univision. You can listen to the game on the Atlanta United app or through one of our radio partners: 92.9 The Game or, for Spanish-speaking listeners, La Mejor Atlanta. Click here for a full rundown of how to follow along with the game.