When a team is in form they can’t wait to get back on the pitch, and after Atlanta United’s breakthrough MLS performance of the season last week, the Five Stripes are eager to build on that this Saturday in front of a packed home crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. With Western Conference powerhouse FC Dallas coming to town, you can be sure the 17’s will be rowdy and proud for the first home match in more than a month.
It’s the only regular-season matchup of the season between two sides looking to push to the top of their respective conferences this year. Also, both teams – along with the rest of MLS this weekend – will be sporting their limited-edition 2019 Parley kits as part of the league’s Greener Goals initiative. It all starts at 4pm on Saturday, April 20th. Click here for all you need to know on how to tune in to the match.
Atlanta United (1-2-2)
Atlanta United took full advantage of their time off, showing a sharpness and fresh legs in their return to action last week that was simply too much for the New England Revolution. And what a difference three points can make, with Atlanta United back up into Eastern Conference contention if they can win their two games in hand. But that was just the start, and the team knows they’ll have to build on that to start climbing up the Eastern Conference standings to where they belong.
One player who will certainly be looking for a repeat performance from last weekend is Ezequiel Barco, whose two-goal outing last week earned him MLS Player of the Week honors as well as the MLS Goal of the Week. But while Barco stole the show, it was a free-flying attack all night that showed the potential of the team –– with Tito Villalba, Josef Martinez and Julian Gressel all piling up chances. And with Pity Martinez now available for selection after subbing on last week off the bench as a precaution, there’s only more firepower available to head coach Frank de Boer.
There are a few question marks behind the front line, with Eric Remedi listed as questionable after being forced off with injury last weekend. But with Jeff Larentowicz impressing in his first league start of the season on Saturday, Frank de Boer will have reinforcements to add the necessary steel to the midfield alongside the likes of Darlington Nagbe or Julian Gressel. And of course the back line will be itching to build on their first league clean sheet of the year last weekend. If they can do that –– and the team can put pressure on Dallas on the attacking end from the opening whistle –– a packed and loud Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be all the team will need to make it two wins out of two in the month of April.
FC Dallas (4-2-1)
FC Dallas has always followed a youth-first model of roster-building, and while they may have a new manager in Luchi Gonzalez, that philosophy is still going strong. With a young core showing promise and a sprinkle of veteran leadership to guide their way, it could be another strong year for FC Dallas.
The breakout star so far this season for FC Dallas is one of the most exciting young talents in all of American soccer. Homegrown signing Paxton Pomykal has proven to be worth the hype, with commanding performances from the central attacking midfield position that has shown his skill not just in possession but also incisive, creative passing –– a key threat for the Atlanta United midfield to shut down this weekend. He will be looking to feed another young Homegrown talent in Jesus Ferreira, an 18-year-old forward from the Dallas Academy that scored in his last outing against Portland.
There are two more American talents in the back, with goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez a promising young netminder that’s already in the U.S. National Team picture –– as is one of the best young fullbacks in the league in American Reggie Cannon. But they join a more experienced back line protecting the goal. Matt Hedges is a 29-year-old MLS veteran that has been the cornerstone of the FC Dallas defense for years alongside fellow FC Dallas stalwart Ryan Hollingshead. And rounding out the back is Reto Ziegler, a Swiss international with Champions League pedigree who is dangerous at set pieces, not only with his head but with his foot as well, as proven by his free kick strike against Atlanta United last season. It’s a strong mix of young potential and veteran experience that will be a challenge for the home side’s attack.
Last year in Dallas, Atlanta thought they had a crucial road win only to concede the three points in the final moments of the match. With that still lingering in the back of their minds, the Five Stripes will be hungry for revenge on their home pitch to kickstart their run up the Eastern Conference standings. Tickets are still available here, or if you can’t make it, click here for everything you need to know about how to tune in.