VANCOUVER, BC – The new kids are coming to town.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC host high-flying expansion team Atlanta United FC on Saturday at BC Place (tickets still available – please note the match will kick off at 2:30 p.m. PT).
KICKOFF: 2:30 p.m. PT │ TV: TSN 1/4 │ RADIO: TSN 1040
Here’s everything you need to know about the match.
New kids on the block: This will be the first-ever meeting between Vancouver and Atlanta, an expansion team who lead MLS with 27 goals. Atlanta currently sit just below the red line in the Eastern Conference but are coming off back-to-back wins over Houston Dynamo and New York City FC. Led by head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who previously managed FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team, they are no ordinary expansion team.
Bouncing back: After back-to-back victories, the ‘Caps are now coming off a pair of losses at the hands of D.C. United and Montreal Impact. But they felt a little unfortunate in both outings. They outshot DC 22-7 and hit the woodwork four times only to fall 1-0 and conceded two penalties in a 4-2 defeat to Montreal. As Jordan Harvey said this week, the ‘Caps feel like they’re doing the right things. Now, they’re hoping to turn those positive performances into positive results.
Secret to success? One of Vancouver’s most dangerous offensive players so far this season has been diminutive winger Cristian Techera. The 5-foot-2 Uruguayan has three goals and one assist on the season, including a spectacular volley a few weeks ago against Sporting Kansas City. When “The Bug” is on, usually the ‘Caps are too. In fact, they’ve never lost a game in which he’s scored (9W-0L-2D). Suffice to say, they hope he finds the scoresheet on Saturday afternoon.
Matias Laba (DM) vs. Miguel Almiron (AM): This has the makings of one of the best matchups you’ll see at BC Place all year. Miguel Almiron is the hottest player in MLS, having scored five goals in his last two games. The 23-year-old Paraguayan midfielder, who was a rumoured target of English Premier League side Arsenal FC before Atlanta bought him, is also coming off back-to-back MLS Player of the Week honours. Assuming he plays centrally as he’s done in recent weeks, Almiron will be lined up directly opposite to 'Caps defensive midfielder Matias Laba, the league’s all-time leader in tackles per game (at least as far back as Opta stats are provided). Laba should be extra fresh too, having missed last weekend’s match vs. D.C. due to caution accumulation. On Saturday, he returns to the fold for what might just be his toughest assignment yet.
“I think their attacking four is playing very well right now. 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 cliché, 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.” – Whitecaps FC defender Jordan Harvey