Atlanta United are coming off a confidence-building road win. Los Angeles Football Club is looking to shake off a four-goal meltdown that led to the expansion franchise’s first-ever loss.
The first meeting between the two young MLS clubs Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will feature a pair of teams riding very different waves of momentum.
Atlanta played close to 60 minutes with only 10 men but made an early own-goal hold up in a 1-0 win at Minnesota last Saturday. It was United’s third straight win after dropping its opener at Houston 4-0.
“I think it was a sense of determination, togetherness, fight and spirit,” Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan told reporters after the win over Minnesota. “This is a big step forward for us. When people think of Atlanta United they think of pretty football and tonight we showed another side. We showed that we could compete and that we could battle.”
Atlanta starting defender Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez picked up two yellow cards against Minnesota and exited at the 38th minute. Gonzalez-Pirez will be sidelined Saturday against LAFC. The Five Stripes also will be without midfielder Ezequiel Barco. The team’s prized offseason acquisition has yet to see the pitch this season as he recovers from a quad strain.
LAFC has shown the firepower to take advantage of Atlanta’s shorthanded defense. Carlos Vela hined in the early going, teaming with Diego Rossi up front to bolster LAFC’s attack. Each has a team-best three goals, while Rossi leads all of MLS with four assists.
Saturday’s at Atlanta will test the LAFC’s resolve, though. LA Galaxy scored four goals in the second half to overcome a 3-0 deficit and hand LAFC a deflating loss last weekend, highlighted by the debut of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“You grow as a team from each moment in a season,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley told reporters this week. “From our standpoint, yeah, it feels lousy that it happens in that way, on that day, against the Galaxy. But, c’mon, it’s football. So we’re ready to move on.”