FRISCO - FC Dallas will open the brand-new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon in a nationally-televised meeting with Atlanta United FC. Dallas (9-7-10) is coming off a hearty 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls last weekend playing a man down for nearly an hour of the match and haven’t won since late July- an eight-game winless streak. Atlanta (10-8-6) also hasn’t won since late July, but has only played four matches over that stretch with three draws and a loss. It is the first-ever meeting between the two sides.
Stylistically, Dallas and Atlanta are two of the most similar clubs in MLS, both playing a 4-2-3-1 formation that thrives on the high pressure and hitting teams on the counter. While FCD got their playmaking No. 10 back last week in Mauro Diaz, the newcomers play through a crafty South American No. 10 of their own, Miguel Almiron, who has eight goals and nine assists through 24 games this year. Atlanta’s formation is topped off by Josef Martinez, with nine tallies in 2017, and a pair of Argentine wingers: Yamil Asad and Hector Villalba. Asad is the creating half with three goals and 10 assists, while Villalba is the finishing half with 10 goals and four assists.
Mauro Diaz vs. Jeff Larentowicz - It was very apparent against NYRB just how crucial a full-strength Mauro Diaz is to the Dallas attack. In just 37 minutes of full 11v11, the Magician completed 12 passes as FCD forced 12 clearances from the Red Bulls’ back line - nearly all of which coming inside the 18. Diaz is crucial for Dallas to break through on offense.
Carlos Gruezo vs. Miguel Almiron - Just a crucial as Diaz is to Dallas’ offense, Almiron will be the big threat that Gruezo, fresh from international duty with Ecuador, will be tasked with on Sunday. If he and the rest of the FCD midfield can win the middle of the park, the club will be in great shape to close a result.
Last Time Out
(4-2-3-1): Brad Guzan; Greg Garza, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst, Anton Walkes; Chris McCann, Jeff Larentowicz; Yamil Asad, Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba; Josef Martinez.
Keys to Three Points
Dallas’ defense over the last two months has found itself prone to quick mental lapses that they pay for dearly, be it on set pieces or in the run of play. Against a highly-skilled Atlanta team, the defensive shape will prove key to determining the outcome of the match. If they can contain the expansion side’s attack, while creating chances of their own on the counter, FCD stands in good position to pull points out of Atlanta’s home debut.