As if playing in front of more than 70,000 rabid fans wasn’t enough, Atlanta will be looking to avenge last week’s 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Houston Dynamo. Oh, and there’s the fact that D.C. United prevented the Five Stripes from earning a first-round bye in the MLS Cup Playoffs last season, having beaten them on three separate occasions. And on top of all of that, one of Atlanta’s top performers last season, Yamil Asad, is returning, only this time he’s wearing a different style of red and black – that of D.C. United.
“It sucks going against him, that’s for sure,” said Atlanta United left back Greg Garza, who dominated the left side of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium pitch with Asad last season. “I’m sure he has in his mindset that he’s going to try twice as hard against us. But we have to turn the page from last year. Myself and him created a wonderful relationship on and off the field, but this is 2018 and we have to find new chemistry with the guys that we have.”
Along with Asad, who made an immediate impact for D.C. in his his club debut, the club has added other attacking pieces that Atlanta has yet to face. Atlanta players said they are aware of the newly formed attack that Ben Olsen and Co. have amassed.
“They’ve got quite a few attacking options. Quick, nifty, agile, good runners off the ball, athletic, pace, good on the ball,” said Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “Obviously we know Yamil and what he brings to the team, and Paul Arriola and what he brings. They’re a bit different than they were last year. They’re at a point now where they feel confident about their players and who they have on the pitch. It’s gonna be a tough game.”
Atlanta United manager Gerardo "Tata" Martino was asked if there are any advantages or disadvantages when it comes to planning around a familiar player when he returns to face his former club.
In the case of Asad, the answer for Martino was simple: “The disadvantage is facing him.”