Atlanta was welcomed home last week by a record-breaking crowd of over 72,000, and just six days later they will return once again to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. On Saturday, the club will try to build off that 3-1 victory as they host the Vancouver Whitecaps for the first time in the history of the two clubs. Last season it was Vancouver who took the result in Cascadia against league newcomers Atlanta United, so the Five Stripes will hope to return the favor as they welcome the Whitecaps to the ATL.
The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on FOX Sports South. Tickets are still available here. If you can't be there, don't worry, click here for more details on how to follow along.
Atlanta United (1-1-0)
After a disappointing road loss to open the season, Atlanta United – rejuvenated by its loyal, rowdy fan base – returned to winning ways in their 2018 Mercedes-Benz Stadium debut. The victory tasted even sweeter knowing it was against a team they couldn’t earn points against last season in D.C. United, and they will be seeking redemption Saturday against Vancouver as well.
To kick off their 2018 scoring account, who other than last season’s leading scorer Josef Martinez to slot one in past the keeper and start the waterfall. He, along with his notoriously quick and clever South American contingent up front – Miguel Almirón and Tito Villalba – picked up right where they left off in 2017: at full throttle, with the goal fest split among the bunch. Meanwhile the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year Julian Gressel proved once again why he earned that honor, earning MLS Team of the Week honors and tacking on an assist to Almirón’s finish that won MLS Goal of the Week.
The defense also bounced back after a tough season opener as captain Michael Parkhurst returned to the starting lineup, holding D.C.’s dangerous front line to one shot on goal all match. Atlanta would’ve emerged with a clean sheet as well if it weren’t for a late consolation goal off an unlucky deflection in the final minutes. They’ll hope that last weekend’s performance on both ends of the ball will lead to the first clean sheet of the year on Saturday as they introduce the Whitecaps to the red, black and gold army for the first time.
Vancouver Whitecaps (2-0-0)
Vancouver started the season hot out of the gates earning back-to-back wins, first against Canadian counterparts the Montreal Impact and then travelling to Houston last week, topping the Dynamo in their own house. After a solid 2017 saw the club reach the Western Conference Semi-Finals, it’s looking like Carl Robinson’s squad is back to prove they can surpass last season’s success.
Despite many new faces in the Whitecaps starting XI, Atlanta United fans will remember the man sporting the Captain’s armband and leading the lines from central defense, Kendall Waston. The Costa Rican international is not only one of the best one-on-one defenders in the league, at 6’ 5” he provides a massive presence in the air and the opponent’s box on set pieces, scoring twice in their win over Atlanta last season. Another familiar name in the lineup from 2017 and arguably their most dangerous attacking player is Peruvian forward Yordy Reyna. On top of scoring six goals and tallying four assists last year, few players in the league are more poised on the ball than Reyna. 17-year-old Homegrown signing Alphonso Davies has also seemed to lock up a starting spot on the wing and already dazzled the home fans with an assist and a goal in the season opener.
However, the main story up front so far has been the addition of MLS veteran Kei Kamara. The 33-year-old is one of the most prolific scorers the league has ever seen, and after bagging a goal in each of his games with the Whitecaps thus far, he’s now reached the 100 goal mark in MLS (tied for 9th all-time). Though he has eleven seasons under his belt, he hasn’t lost his nose for goal, scoring 12 times for the Revolution last season and already on track to top that if he maintains his current scoring pace.
Both sides will be looking to build on last week’s success as they hope to get an edge at the top of the table early in the season, so it’s a match you don’t want to miss. Make sure you get your tickets here, or if you can’t make it, click here for everything you need to know about tuning in for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.