The Five Stripes dispatched FC Motagua from the Concacaf Champions League with a 3-0 second-leg win to wrap up their Round of 16 series against the Hondurans 4-1 on aggregate. But the true test of how far Atlanta United has come as a team under manager Frank de Boer — and how well they can manage this tricky continental competition — rests on how they fare against Mexico’s best. And they’re likely to get that test in the quarterfinals against Las Aguilas.
Like the Five Stripes, Club America secured an away goal in a 1-1 road draw at Guatemala's Comunicaciones ahead of the second leg at Estadio Azteca on Wednesday. Only one of the massive upsets in tournament history would prevent the Mexican giants from advancing to the quarterfinals and a date against Atlanta.
Pity Martinez, Atlanta’s clear man of the match in the victory against Motagua with his two goals and handful of incisive passes, told media after the game that Atlanta is full of confidence heading into a potential matchup between arguably the biggest teams in the respective countries.
“We don’t have any problem,” Pity Martinez said of a possible showdown with Club America. “I always say that Atlanta is a team that, whoever we play, you have to respect. We’re very strong at home. I said it before we played Club America, we’re a strong team and I always say it. You have to respect us, even though they are a big club in North and Central America. Whoever we play, we have to worry about ourselves.”
Highlights: Atlanta vs. Motagua
De Boer sounded equally enthused about the potential matchup.
“It should be a great game if it happens like that,” De Boer said after the win. “For these kinds of games, you start to play soccer. So for me, that's fantastic for me, for our club, and especially for our players and the fans.
“Of course… it's probably going to be here again.”
When the two teams met last August and Atlanta became the first MLS club to win the Campeones Cup, it did so in front of more than 40,000 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium — many of which adorned their yellow shirts in fervent support of their Mexican heroes. But the anticipated Champions League quarterfinal rematch would be played on the same pitch on which Atlanta beat Motagua – Fifth Third Bank Stadium in suburban Kennesaw – where 8,474 turned out for the team’s first home game of 2020.
“The pitch is good,” De Boer said. “We have confidence that we can get a good result, but we have to be on our top [level], that's for sure.”