The most daunting fixture of Atlanta United’s season has arrived, but a visit to LAFC might not be quite as impossible as previously thought. The reigning MLS Cup and Supporters Shield champs host Atlanta three days after a CONCACAF Champions League final loss to Liga MX’s León, whereas Gonzalo Pineda’s side has had a full week to prepare for its visit to BMO Stadium.
Despite its Champions League commitments, which culminated in a 3-1 defeat at the hands of León, LAFC has remained successful in MLS play as well. Steve Cherundolo’s side sits 3rd in the Western Conference on 25 points, all the more impressive considering it’s played a league-low of 12 matches. On the flip side, that means the coming weeks will be jam-packed, with 3 straight double-game weeks on the way starting with Atlanta. Nonetheless, LA should have the squad depth to cope fairly well with such a schedule. Denis Bouanga (10g, 1a) and an aging Carlos Vela (4g, 4a) are the stars, but Kwadwo Opoku (2g, 1a), Stipe Biuk (2g, 1a), and Timothy Tillman (2g) are quite the supporting cast. If one thing’s missing, it’s an elite-caliber striker, as Cristian Arango has yet to really be replaced after a winter move to Pachuca. Nonetheless, LA’s attack is still good enough for 3rd in the West with 23 goals scored (which will be quite the test for Atlanta’s Swiss Cheese backline), going hand in hand with a conference-best 10 goals conceded. Though both of those numbers are slightly misleading thanks to LA’s shorter schedule so far, it’s quite clear from any angle that they’re one of the best teams in the league.
Atlanta got the week off after last Wednesday’s 3-3 draw against New England, which has given the rest of the Eastern Conference time to catch up to the Five Stripes on games played. In turn, Atlanta is now down to 6th, an equal distance from 4th to 9th (three points). While a result at LAFC would be quite the bonus, it’s easy to look ahead to this weekend’s visit from 7th-placed DC United and subsequent showdowns with both New York teams as slightly more important in the context of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Still, now would be the time to take points off the machine that is LAFC and this is MLS after all; anything can happen.
These sides have met only 3 times, with Atlanta holding a 2W-0D-1L advantage, including a 1-0 win in the most recent meeting back in 2021.
Predicted Starting XIs
Prediction: LAFC 1-1 Atlanta United
LA will still be recovering from its CCL defeat, both mentally and physically, thus opening the door for Atlanta to take a result home from California. An Almada strike will cancel out Bouanga’s opener and the points will be split.