((Photo: Courtesy of Atlanta United)
This week, Atlanta United FC faces off against the Vancouver Whitecaps who have accrued 6 points in the last two games, winning both of them by relying on carefully thought out set pieces and fast-paced counter attacks. Atlanta United is also coming off of a big win against D.C. United March 11th, thanks to goals from Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez, and Tito Villalba, all three players of South American nationality (Paraguay, Venezuela, Argentina, respectively). With the recent influx of South American players transferring to the MLS in the previous years, it is not surprising that these players have encountered each other on a different, much bigger platform. The road to World Cup Russia 2018.
One of the masterminds behind the arrangement of the set pieces in the Whitecaps roster is Yordy Reyna. The Peruvian international was recently called up to represent his country in the World Cup and has racked up 6 goals as a Midfielder the previous season for the Caps. Qualifying in the South America group stage means that Peru’s squad has had to have favorable outcomes with the “bigs” in the world of soccer such as Brazil and Argentina. Not to mention, two other countries in their group stage are Venezuela and Paraguay, both of which Almiron and Martinez were called up for to play matches against Peru. More importantly, both of which did not qualify in this year’s World Cup.
With Reyna’s momentum, both with his club team and national squad, one can only imagine that this key player’s confidence is at an all time high. However, with Head Coach Tata Martino’s most recent lineup formation change (3-5-2) there is a clear emphasis on midfield possession, which will help slow down the Whitecaps’ likelihood of counter attacks or any type of fast breaks. Atlanta United is known for their passing and up tempo playmaking and the 3-5-2 formation allows players like Julian Gressel and Darlington Nagbe to feed the ball up to Martinez or Villalba to have shots on goal.
Another definite factor working for Atlanta United is the advantage of playing at home with the entire fanbase of Georgia surrounding them. Having recently broken the previous MLS record, also set by Atlanta United, March 11, 2018, at the match against D.C. United with a jaw dropping 72,035 in attendance. The fans and environment will play a crucial factor in Atlanta United’s attitude throughout the match.
With these moving parts all in mind, Atlanta United will face the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday, March 17th at the Mercedes Benz Stadium and, while nothing is guaranteed, the matchup between these two high quality teams is sure to be great entertainment.