The next game in our MLS opening weekend previews is perhaps the biggest matchup of the weekend as DC United host MLS Cup champions, Atlanta United, at Audi field. Atlanta’s side will look a little bit different this year, what with Miguel Almiron leaving for Newcastle United. However, they did manage to bring in Pity Martinez in what could be a very interesting move.
For our hosts, last season was a mixed bag. They managed to bring in legendary striker, Wayne Rooney – a move which certainly helped them in their bid for the play-offs. Despite managing to reach the MLS post season by finishing fourth in the Eastern conference, they fell at the first hurdle losing narrowly to Columbus Crew.
Atlanta on the other hand suffered no such heartbreak. They finished second in the East behind New York Red Bulls, earning them a pass straight through to the conference semi-finals. They would best both New York teams in the semi-final and final before going on to dispatch Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup final – Champions!
These two met three times last season, with all three games yielding the same scoreline. Atlanta would win the first two encounters of the season 3-1 before DC picked up a win by the same margin in their final clash of the season back in September. In total, the pair have faced off against each other six times over the course of Atlanta’s short history. DC won four, Atlanta the other two.
Pre-season was relatively short for both sides considering how active some of the other sides have been. Atlanta played three club friendlies, hammering Seattle Sounders 7-1 (Yup. Seven-One), as well as picking up draws with the two LA sides. Atlanta are also fresh off the back of a CONCACAF Champions League win as they smashed Heredians 4-0 last night to overcome a 3-1 deficit (5-3 agg) and progress to the quarter-finals.
DC played just the five games in pre-season too, picking up wins against Bethlehem Steel and Tampa Bay Rowdies. The other three games saw them lose to Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact as well as pick up a draw with Cincinnati.
Both teams are relatively fit and healthy for the game with the hosts reporting zero injury concerns at this time. Atlanta will be without right-back Franco Escobar as he is recovering from a fractured right clavicle.
Prediction: For me, as a Newcastle United fan, Atlanta are the MLS team of my heart so I can’t go backing against them now can I? I’m going to take ATL to continue the trend from last season and pick up a 3-1 win.