On Wednesday, Atlanta United (11-3-4) look to extend their road form to eight-straight unbeaten as they take on FC Dallas (9-2-5) in an Independence Day cross-conference matchup. The Five Stripes are coming off a massive 4-0 win over Orlando and sit at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings, but FC Dallas is at their heels just five points back and two games in hand.
This contest could play a part in who lifts the Shield come the end of the season so make sure to tune in on FOX Sports South or FOX Sports GO on Wednesday, July 4th at 8:00 p.m. EST. Click here for all the other ways to follow the match.
Atlanta United (11-3-4)
The Five Stripes enter Wednesday’s matchup riding a six-match unbeaten run in the league that’s seen them maintain their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. In that stretch, they’ve only allowed four goals and only four teams have conceded less all season than their 20. During their unbeaten run, they’ve also scored 12 themselves – bringing their season total to a league-leading 38 goals thus far this season.
Nearly half of that tally has come from their danger man up front in Josef Martinez who – with another goal last week against Orlando – now leads the Golden Boot race with 15 on the year, four more than his closest competitor. Since joining the league last season, Martinez has 34 goals in just 38 games, and Atlanta have yet to lose a match when he gets on the scoresheet. Quick, clever, athletic and always hanging on the back shoulder of the defense, there’s no doubt the Venezuelan international will be causing problems for the Dallas defense on Wednesday night.
But #7 is only the tip of the Five Stripes attack, behind him sits one of the league’s top playmakers in reigning MLS Newcomer of the Year Miguel Almirón, who has eight goals and seven assists already this season. And surrounding him are a number of game-changers as well – Tito Villalba brings pace, energy and a North/South edge to him while young Ezequiel Barco compliments his threat with cleverness and craft. And while the attack suffered a major blow with Darlington Nagbe – their connector in the middle – out for 2-3 months with an adductor injury, Martino slotted in his most versatile asset in Julian Gressel into the middle and he looked more than comfortable in their 4-0 thrashing of Orlando last weekend.
FC Dallas (9-2-5)
FC Dallas had been one of the most consistently successful sides in the regular season until last year where their form dipped near the end and saw them miss out on a playoff spot. But Oscar Pareja has his team back looking like Supporter’s Shield contenders, winning six out of their last nine and unbeaten in their last 15 home matches. They’re currently 2nd in the Western Conference and just five points back from Atlanta in the race for the Shield with two games in hand on the leaders.
At the helm of the Dallas attack has been Argentine maestro Mauro Diaz, but the club announced Tuesday that he is moving to the Middle East to continue his career after six seasons for the MLS club. Losing him will be a tough pill to swallow for Dallas fans, but they can still remain confident as their two primary goalscorers in Roland Lamah and Maxi Urruti are in Dallas to stay. Lamah’s pace and footwork have earned him a team-leading seven goals, while Urruti’s finishing instincts has him just behind with six on the year. Both have been instrumental for Dallas in front of net, with Lamah and Urruti each scoring 18 goals since the start of last season –– no other players have recorded more than four in that time.
Other than their two front men, part of the goalscoring distribution across the side is due to the team’s playing style. Oscar Pareja’s team is well-coached, extremely technical, and usually out-possesses their opponents. Particularly with technically gifted players like Kellyn Acosta and Santiago Mosquera in the center of the park, their free-flowing, pass-and-move style creates many opportunities for anyone on the field to have their chance at net.
It’s two of the top teams in the league facing off on Independence Day evening so there’s sure to be fireworks both on and off the field. Make sure you tune in on FOX Sports South or FOX Sports GO for the 8:00 p.m. EST kickoff this Wednesday, and for all the other ways to follow the match, click here.