VANCOUVER, BC – On Saturday afternoon at BC Place, Vancouver Whitecaps FC will face Atlanta United FC for the first time in club history (please note the match will kick off at 2:30 p.m. PT – tickets still available). So, who are these Atlanta United guys, anyway?
Glad you asked.
This may be Atlanta’s inaugural Major League Season, but as you can see below, they are no ordinary expansion team. Here are three things you need to know about Vancouver’s next foe.
TATA THE TACTICIAN
Let’s start with the man in charge.
Atlanta are led by head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who was described by The Guardian as “one of the greatest tacticians of the modern game.” Martino has previously coached Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona and the Argentine national team.
How’s that for pedigree?
Carl Robinson, who has been praised for his tactics as of late, loves to test himself against the best. And on Saturday, he’ll have an opportunity to do just that.
'ONE TO WATCH'
The United player to watch is midfielder Miguel Almiron, who is coming off back-to-back MLS Player of the Week honours.
The 23-year-old Paraguayan, who was a rumoured target of English Premier League side Arsenal FC before Atlanta purchased him in the offseason, is one of the hottest players in MLS, having scored five goals in his last two games. Almiron can play on the wing but he’s been deployed centrally as an attacking midfielder as of late, which should make for a juicy matchup with Vancouver’s gritty defensive midfielder Matias Laba.
"I watch a lot of games throughout the week so I've definitely seen him play," said Whitecaps FC defender Jordan Harvey. "Quality. He's got a left foot, he's got pace, and he's crafty, so he's going to be one to watch."
ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK
Atlanta currently sit just below the red line in the Eastern Conference with 18 points and a 5W-4L-3D record, so let’s not call them world-beaters just yet. On the other hand, they’re coming off two big wins over Houston Dynamo and New York City FC and have scored a league-leading 27 goals.
Like I said, they’re no ordinary expansion team.
As detailed in a recent MLSsoccer.com article, "The winning formula for Atlanta United is simple: They like to build the attack out of the back when they have possession, press the opposing team when they don’t, and finish chances with ruthless efficiency."
"I think their attacking four is playing very well right now," Harvey said. "I've been watching them from a distance, their signings, and how they've built their team. It's an attacking brand, so we just have to do what we've been doing. It's cliche, but focusing on us and how we've been playing because it's been very, very good. If we do that at home, and produce as many chances as we did last game, I'm confident a few will go in."