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The Daily Dirt, March 18: Matchday in the A

A few things to look for today at Bobby Dodd Stadium

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The number two and number three teams in the Eastern Conference will do battle today at Bobby Dodd Stadium as the Chicago Fire come to town to face Atlanta United. Yes, the season is only two weeks old, but this is a big statement game for the Five Stripes.

The squad showed well against New York, but could not close out the game in the second half. They ran roughshod over the hapless Loons of Minnesota United last week in Minneapolis, and even showed an ability to close things out and get the necessary result. After Kevin Molino’s penalty kick, the team survived Minnesota’s best spell of play without conceding another goal before halftime. Adjustments were made tactically, and Tata Martino’s team swung the wrecking ball in the second half to seal the win.

Chicago presents a different test than either of the first two opponents. They do not press like New York, but they are able to hit you on the counterattack. They have a winger in Arturo Alvarez who is not typical. Playing on the right side, he cuts inside on his preferred left foot constantly. This can unbalance a defense and present 2v1 and 3v2 situations in the middle. The Fire also have two holding midifielders who are among the best in MLS. Dax McCarty and Juninho will be vital for Chicago to keep possession against Atlanta’s press.

As Tata Martino has said many times, he focuses more on what his squad will do than the opponents. Atlanta’s wing play can be a huge advantage against Chicago’s less heralded fullbacks. There are questions, after the Fire finished last in the league in 2015 and 2016, about whether they can handle adversity. If Atlanta can jump out to an early lead, will the Fire have a response?

No matter what the result is today, we will learn so much more about Atlanta United and their prospects in 2017 from this game.


Domestic

Wilmer Cabrera thriving as a manager in MLS with Houston (Guardian)

Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi replaces Fabian Johnson on the USMNT roster (Stars and Stripes FC)

Jeff Cassar planning to field a young, energetic lineup for RSL against the LA Galaxy (Salt Lake Tribune)

Orlando City trying to iron out issues with their new stadium (Orlando Sentinel)

New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders experimenting tactically ahead of match (MLS)

More issues in the NASL, Puerto Rico FC might be ineligible to play (This Is Cosmos Country)

Orange County’s new NASL team might be coached by a former Atlanta Silverbacks manager (FiftyFive.One)

International

Pep Guardiola needs to time to teach his system (Guardian)

Octavio Zambrano takes over as the new national team manager of Canada (official)