Atlanta United FC vs. Chicago Fire
2017 MLS Regular Season
Bobby Dodd Stadium – Atlanta, GA
Saturday, March 18 – 4 pm ET
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Fresh off of their 6-1 throttling of fellow expansion club Minnesota United FC on Sunday, Atlanta United FC will return home this weekend to host the Chicago Fire, another team rapidly rising in the minds of many MLS observers.
The match, which will be the first MLS game to be broadcast on Facebook under the league’s recently-announced agreement with Univision, should be a solid litmus test for a pair of teams hoping to make some noise in the Eastern Conference this year. Both clubs are coming off of solid results, with Chicago matching Atlanta’s win at Minnesota with a 2-0 home victory over Real Salt Lake last Saturday.
Atlanta United FC
Good luck following up on that, Atlanta. Tata Martino’s side absolutely demolished Minnesota last week in the battle of 2017 expansion clubs, getting a hat trick from Josef Martinez and two goals and an assist from Miguel Almiron to win 6-1 in snowy Minneapolis. The six goals were the most scored by any expansion team in MLS history, and served as yet another statement of intent for Atlanta, who very much look like they’re for real.
They’ll again rely on Designated Players Martinez and Almiron against Chicago on Saturday, while also looking for a contribution from fellow young South Americans Yamil Asad and Hector Villalba. In the back, defensive midfielder Carlos Carmona will return from a one-game suspension served at Minnesota, while outside defenders Tyrone Mears and Greg Garza will have their hands full with dangerous Chicago winger David Accam.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – Zach Loyd (Groin injury)
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1): Alec Kann (GK) – Tyrone Mears, Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Greg Garza – Carlos Carmona, Julian Gressel – Hector Villalba, Miguel Almiron, Yamil Asad – Josef Martinez
Notes: Atlanta’s six-goal performance in Minnesota last weekend was only the 12th time in MLS history that an away team scored six or more goals in a regular season game, and only the fifth such occurrence since the end of the 2001 season … Atlanta will be looking for their first home point on Saturday. The club led for much of their home opener against the New York Red Bulls, but gave up two late goals to lose 2-1 on opening weekend.
What a difference a central midfield makes. After finishing 2015 and 2016 in dead last in MLS, the Fire are off to a solid 1-0-1 start in 2017. One of the biggest reasons for that? Their new central midfield pairing of Dax McCarty and Juninho. The MLS veterans were solid in their first start together against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, and should make the Fire – who look more dangerous in the attack this year, in part thanks to the offseason addition of striker Nemanja Nikolic – a tough out all season.
Whether or not the Fire can open the season with a third straight result on Saturday, however, will largely come down to how they handle Atlanta’s lighting-quick attack. McCarty and Juninho will have to do some serious work shadowing Almiron, while center backs Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira will have their hands full with the back-shoulder runs of Martinez. How they hold up should give us a decent idea of the Fire’s prospects going forward in 2017.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – John Goossens (Right ankle surgery), OUT – Matt Polster (Right knee strain), OUT – David Arshakyan (Right thigh strain)
Projected starting XI (4-2-3-1): Jorge Bava (GK) – Michael Harrington, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent – Dax McCarty, Juninho – David Accam, Michael De Leeuw, Arturo Alvarez – Nemanja Nikolic
Notes: Chicago’s 1-1 draw at Columbus in the season opener snapped their five-game road losing streak, but prolonged a run of just one away win in the Fire’s last 43 MLS road games … Chicago have lost 14 of their last 16 road matches, conceding an average of 2.3 goals per game across that run.
This is the first MLS meeting between the two sides.
Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero
Assistant Referees: Corey Rockwell, Eric Boria
Fourth Official: Marcos DeOliveira