After months of anticipation, Atlanta United officially make their 2018 Mercedes-Benz Stadium debut as they host D.C. United this Sunday. The Five Stripes are looking to replicate their success at home last season and hand their northern neighbors their first loss in the matchup’s history. You can catch all the action at 3:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.
Ahead of this weekend’s inter-conference clash, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot:
1) Home Hype
Atlanta United enjoyed an explosive inaugural season in 2017 in large part due to their consistent and successful performances on their home pitch. The Five Stripes finished with an 11-3-3 record in the ATL, including a 5-1-2 regular-season stretch inside their new home of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta was even more impressive off the field, as the club led MLS in attendance all season, breaking almost every league record. With over 70k expected for the match on Sunday, there’s no doubt the sea of red, black and gold will be at full force as one of the rowdiest and toughest environments for opponents to play in, and the players have spoken all week about how they can’t wait to come back to play in front of their fans. It will also mark the first time D.C. meets the ATL supporters inside their true home, so it should shape up to be quite the contest.
2) Martinez in Mercedes-Benz Stadium
As a member of the MLS Best XI in 2017, Atlanta’s number seven up front was a constant headache for opposing defenders last season. Despite being sidelined with injury for an extended period, Josef Martinez managed to finish fourth in the golden boot race with 19 goals and three hat tricks on the season. Two of those came inside the walls of Mercedes-Benz Stadium where the Venezuelan international was nothing short of electric, scoring 10 goals in eight games. With fresh nets up this Sunday, Five Stripes fans will hope he sniffs them out and opens his 2018 scoring account with a bang against D.C.
3) Triple-A Midfield
With the midseason addition of U.S. international Paul Arriola last year as well as former Atlanta midfielder Yamil Asad joining D.C in the offseason, Luciano Acosta and company will be an attacking force to be reckoned with in 2018. While the complete Triple-A midfield wasn’t on the pitch in their season opener last week (Luciano Acosta suspended), the other two still impressed with Arriola tearing down the wing for a full 90 and Asad scoring his first goal for the Black and Red. This Sunday, with Asad’s return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and a potential for the attacking trio to make their first start together, Atlanta United will need to own the midfield and disrupt their passing lanes going forward.
Follow the Match
Kickoff is set for 3:00 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN. You can listen to the game on the Atlanta United app or through one of our radio partners: WAOK 1380 AM or, for Spanish-speaking listeners, La Mejor Atlanta. Click here for a full rundown of how to follow along with the game.