Atlanta United looks to rebound from rout against DC United
Atlanta United enjoyed one of the best home-field advantages in MLS last season. It's hoping to rekindle that magic and shake off a disturbing opening loss in its home debut Sunday against DC United.
Atlanta went 11-3-2 and scored a league-best 48 goals at home last season. The Five Stripes split time between Bobby Dodd Stadium and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened midway through the new franchise's inaugural MLS campaign.
This year didn't start well for Atlanta, though. The Five Stripes played poorly and were beaten 4-0 by the Houston Dynamo last Saturday.
"I think everybody shook it off really well," Atlanta midfielder Kevin Kratz told the media this week, "especially that we had two days where we could figure out what happened. Now it's back into game mode.
"Nobody wants these games to happen, but it's good that it happens early in the season. Now everybody knows, OK, we have to fight first and then play our style and that's the way we can be successful."
DC United also is looking for its first win of the new season after failing to hold a 1-0 lead and settling for a 1-1 draw at Orlando City last Saturday.
"We started the game very well in Orlando," DC United midfielder Nick DeLeon said. "In the second half, we conceded a little too much possession. So just staying more consistent and more brave playing the ball in the second half, and, like I said, closing out the game."
DC United took all nine points in last season's three meetings with Atlanta and, in the offseason, picked up former Five Stripes playmaker Yasil Asad. In the midfielder's DC debut, he scored United's only goal against Orlando City.
DC United is poised to bolster its roster even more with the pending additions of Costa Rican defender Joseph Mora and Jamaican forward Dane Kelly. Both joined the team this week for training. Kelly is the leading career scorer in the United Soccer League.
Atlanta was held scoreless against Houston, but the Five Stripes have plenty of returning firepower from last season's potent unit, including the prolific one-two duo of striker Josef Martinez and playmaking midfielder Miguel Almiron.
Getting back on the friendly pitch inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium might be all it takes to jump-start Atlanta's offense.
"It's always important to play in front of our home fans," midfielder Julian Gressel said. "The way they were last year and how they will be this year helps us a tremendous amount. It intimidates other teams and it helps us, it gives us a push when we need it and pushes us."
Updated March 9, 2018