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Atlanta United vs. LAFC: Three Questions

No surprise, they’re feeling pretty good these days.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Atlanta United FC
Martino pulling the strings (in a manner of speaking) for Atlanta.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Football Club head to the Eastern Time Zone for the first time in their history this week, as they face 2017 MLS expansion side Atlanta United at their still pretty-new stadium on Saturday.

To get ready for the upcoming opponent, I spoke with Haris Kruskic of SB Nation Atlanta United blog Dirty South Soccer. Many thanks to Haris for taking the time to answer my questions!

Angels on Parade asks Dirty South Soccer:

1. Let’s start with an easy one: How’s the season been going so far for Atlanta United? What’s been good, what’s been bad?

The season has been mostly good so far. The bad is everything about the Houston Dynamo match. That was.....weird?....umm...disappointing? Bad? Bad. Yeah, it was bad. Let’s go with that. Nothing seemed to go right for the Five Stripes in their opening match. The Dynamo scored four in the first half and then took pity on us by not scoring at all in the second half, a couple players got injured, and we missed a PK. It was the worst performance in AU’s short history.

But then all of a sudden, they came home and everything was great again. Tata Martino opted for a 3-5-2 formation instead of a 4-3-3 and it’s worked to near perfection ever since. Every starter is playing in their most suitable role. Last week was a bit of an outlier in terms of good performances because it was the first time I can remember that Atlanta essentially parked the bus for an entire half after they went down to 10 men against Minnesota, but it was still good to see that the team was capable of doing that. Overall, I’m hopeful for continued success.

2. There was a lot of talk in the offseason about the eye-popping transfer feed Atlanta paid for Ezequiel Barco. He hasn’t played in MLS, but will he be ready to play against LAFC? And is he going to be the next Miguel Almiron? Is he even better than Almiron?

Barco hasn’t trained all week, so he almost certainly won’t make his MLS debut on Saturday.

Considering we’ve only seen him play two and a half preseason matches, it’s just too small of a sample size to judge how good he is compared to other players. I will say this: Barco definitely showed flashes of his quality during the preseason. It’s clear that he’s good on the ball, unafraid to take on opposing defenders, and can finish as well as any player on the team after his goal against Minnesota.

He absolutely has the talent to back up his price tag. Ideally though, expectations will be held in check because personally I feel Barco’s best years are ahead of him. However, I understand the desire to see MLS’ most expensive player ever prove his worth.

3. I’m really curious to hear what Atlanta United folks think about LAFC. The media has tried to connect them, and it certainly looks like LAFC has taken some elements of what worked for Atlanta and given it their own spin. But what’s the overarching opinion of the team and their efforts to build up the club?

I think Atlanta fans see a few parallels between the two clubs and immediately jump to calling LAFC copycats. To me, if an expansion club is looking to take inspiration from another club, why wouldn’t you look at Atlanta? I think that’s just common sense for LAFC and a good template to work with. There’s nothing more to it than that.

Bob Bradley’s comments about Atlanta not being the most successful expansion side in MLS history may have rubbed some fans the wrong way and in return those same fans don’t want LAFC to do well. There was also some gripe about similar chants that the LAFC SG’s created, but no chant these days are truly organic. They all stem from something, even Atlanta’s. It’s just sour grapes.

On the other hand, more sane fans have been impressed by LA’s attacking play and how well they’ve done to start their season, especially since all their matches have been on the road so far.

All in all, it’s just a lot of typical good/dumb fan stuff.

4. (Bonus) Prediction for Saturday’s game?

3-3. Are you ready for another goalfest? With the absence of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez due to suspension and potentially two other starting defenders (Franco Escobar and Greg Garza haven’t trained this week due to injuries), Atlanta is almost certainly going to give up goals to LA’s potent attack. However, Atlanta’s attack is healthy and Josef Martinez dyed his hair. That’s the recipe for a hat trick.

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You can read my answers to Haris’ questions at Dirty South Soccer.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!