Atlanta United on Wednesday will take the Mercedes-Benz Stadium field for the first time since Oct. 9 when it welcomes Deportivo Toluca F.C. to town for the American Family Insurance Cup. Sure, it’s a “friendly”, and sure, it’s essentially a night specifically designed for Atlanta to reveal its 2023 and 2024 home kit, but don’t think that the competitive juices won’t be flowing in a match just 10 days prior to the MLS season opener against the San Jose Earthquakes.
And while Atlanta have faced Liga MX teams 3 times at the friendly confines of the Benz, all 3 times have seen it come out on top.
The 1st side from the top-flight Mexican league to step foot on the Mercedes-Benz turf was Monterrey in the 2nd leg of the 2019 Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals. (Atlanta had played Tijuana in a preseason friendly in California, its first outing against a team from Liga MX.) Having followed a 3-1 Leg 1 Round of 16 deficit against Costa Rican side Herediano with a 4-0 win at Kennesaw at home, it was drawn against the 4-time CCL winner and the eventual 2019 champion. Things didn’t fall as kindly against Rayados, though: Atlanta were shut out 3-0 away at Estadio BBVA but salvaged a goal in the return leg a week later at Mercedes-Benz Stadium courtesy of Josef Martinez’s 77th-minute strike.
Look ahead a few months, though, as Atlanta hosted Club América in 2019’s Campeones Cup, the 2nd-such event held between the MLS Cup holders and the winner of Campeón de Campeones (the annual competition between Liga MX’s Apertura and Clausura champions). Los Aguillas actually held a 2-1 lead just before the hour mark before Jeff Larentowicz (!) let loose an absolute belter to knot things up. Martinez then converted a penalty in the 65th minute to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead it would never relinquish.
In 2020, Atlanta would return to Concacaf Champions League by virtue of their U.S. Open Cup win in 2019. The competition had been interrupted due to COVID, but it wasn’t before América took a 3-0 win in the 1st leg at Estadio Azteca. Leg 2 wouldn’t be played until Dec. 16, with Exploria Stadium hosting the contest that saw Atlanta get on the scoresheet in the 82nd minute courtesy of Jackson Conway.
The 2022 season saw the debut of the AmFam Cup, announced that April and scheduled for June 14. After Atlanta jumped out to a 2-0 lead inside of 10 minutes behind goals from Martinez and Luiz Araujo, Pachuca battled back to score twice in a matter of minutes to level things in the 25th. Dom Dwyer, though, had the last laugh in the 56th.
That brings us to Wednesday’s outing against Toluca. And while it won’t count in the final standings, don’t think that Atlanta won’t be looking to stake their claim in front of a home crowd looking for some optimism after a 2022 season with more lows than highs. It also bears mentioning that Atlanta will host Cruz Azul (who it played in a friendly just days ago) in the Leagues Cup this summer and could potentially welcome another Liga MX side to town if it’s able to advance to the Round of 32. We’ll see if it can run its home record against Mexican teams to 4-0 this week.