Atlanta United gets a chance at Concacaf revenge as they host Liga MX giants Rayados at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this week. The Five Stripes enter the match with a three-goal deficit after their first-leg road trip to Mexico. But they responded with their backs against the wall in the last round, and they’ll be hoping a packed house of Atlanta faithful can help them do it again.
It all starts at 8 p.m. EST on Wednesday, March 13th. Click here for all the information on how to tune in to the match.
The Five Stripes enter the match needing to win by at least three goals to advance to the second round after their opening-leg loss in Monterrey. While they haven’t hit the attacking heights of last season yet, they know they have the pieces to threaten any defense once they get their rhythm together. With the reigning MLS MVP already at three goals in just four games across all competitions so far this year, and some of the league’s brightest young talent behind him, they’ll be hoping a raucous home crowd can help propel them to a bounceback performance.
They’ll need a heroic performance from the defense to keep out one of the most potent attacks in North America, as a road goal for the visitors would be yet another tough obstacle to overcome. Michael Parkhurst and Leandro González Pirez have been the anchors remaining from last year’s championship run, while Miles Robinson has seamlessly stepped into a starting role in the back line in his first real stretch of consecutive first-team minutes. But with LGP suspended due to accumulation of yellow cards, head coach Frank de Boer will be forced to shuffle his pack –– and Rayados will have to keep guessing as to who will fill in on the back line in the team's sixth game in just twenty days.
The last time Atlanta United faced Concacaf Champions League elimination, they stepped up with a big 4-0 win in front of the home fans. Wednesday’s opponent is even stronger –– one point off the top of LigaMX, undefeated in 2019, with a wage bill three times that of Atlanta United's. But with nothing to lose, the Five Stripes can let loose and take the game to their opponent for ninety minutes. A good performance against a strong team, final result aside, can be a building block for a team looking to kickstart their season.
Atlanta United hosts Mexican giants Rayados, the side from Monterrey that especially in the past fews has developed into perhaps the strongest team in all of North America. After an impressive performance in front of their home crowd in the first leg, they hold a three-goal lead that makes an already-challenging team that much tougher.
Rogelio Funes Mori leads the front line, and while Atlanta United was able to keep him off the scoresheet last week, he showed his class over the weekend with a stunning backheel goal. A fellow Argentine in Maxi Meza pulls the strings from the #10 position, and if not him then they have yet another dangerous option in young Mexican star Rodolfo Pizarro. Forward Dorlan Pabón proved in the last leg he is always a threat to score. Sitting behind them is young Mexican-American Jonathan Gonzalez, a 19-year-old who has seized the central midfield role, while Mexican National Team star Miguel Layun will be constantly contributing in attack and from set pieces while providing veteran leadership in the back line.
Rayados have a deep and talented team, but they are facing some fixture congestion of their own. After hosting Atlanta United last week, they faced their local rivals Tigres in one of the biggest rivalries in Mexico –– and a matchup between the two top teams in the standings in Liga MX. A 90-minute 1-1 slugfest against the team across town may have taken some energy out of the legs, especially combined with international flights and traveling to a rowdy road environment. Atlanta United will be hoping to turn the tables and use those challenges to their advantage as they look for a strong showing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Wednesday’s match kicks off at 8 p.m. EST, and will be streamed live on Yahoo! Sports. You can also listen in on Star 94.1 FM or the Atlanta United app –– and with another home spectacle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the cards, it will be one you won’t want to miss. Tickets are still available, make sure you’ve reserved yours here.