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LAFC at Atlanta United FC

MLS 2021 Season - Match 18

Sunday, August 15, 2021

4:00 p.m. PT

TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes

RADIO: 710 AM ESPN, ESPN App (Audio), KFWB 980 AM

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Last match was a particularly tough one for the Black & Gold, who entered searching to break a four-match winless streak, but instead saw their run of frustration extended by the Earthquakes following a 2-1 loss. 

The Earthquakes jumped to an early lead in the 11th minute after Nathan Cardoso got a toe on a Cristian Espinoza free kick just outside the box. The lead grew to 2-0 in the 28th minute on a goal from Javier Lopez, but LAFC cut the lead in half six minutes before halftime when Tristan Blackmon headed a free kick toward goal that took a deflection into the net off the Earthquake’s Jackson Yueill.

The 2-1 score line ultimately held, in a match that also saw new LAFC striker Cristian Arango make his MLS debut. 

“I am very happy to make my debut. It was bittersweet because of the loss,” said Arango. “We will push forward together to get good results. This is a hard and intense working team. We will continue to play hard to get wins.”  

Next up for LAFC is Atlanta United FC, an Eastern Conference side that the Club has only faced twice all-time in the regular season. Those two prior matchups couldn’t have shown more different results, with the first a 5-0 LAFC defeat in 2018 and the last a 4-3 LAFC victory in 2019, but Atlanta has seen a major overhaul and turned over several head coaches since they last met. 

In fact, United FC announced just this week the hiring of former Seattle Sounders’ assistant coach Gonzalo Pineda to take over the reins, though interim head coach Rob Valentino will still helm the side for the LAFC match until Pineda settles in. 

ATLANTA UNITED FC IN-DEPTH

On paper, Atlanta United boasts some of the top talent in the league, with veterans like Brad Guzan and a legitimate super star in Josef Martinez. United has also just acquired winger Luiz Araújo, who came to Atlanta from French Ligue 1 side Lille OSC. On pitch, the story has been different. After struggling through most of the season under manager Gabriel Heinze amidst some notable internal issues, Atlanta sacked the second-year manager, and the results since the takeover of interim-manager Rob Valentino have seen a drastic turnaround. 

(I CAN’T GET NO) SATISFACTION

LAFC has struggled recently in close matches, going winless in the last five, but despite the lack of victories -- the scoring chances have still been there. Of those five defeats, the only loss with a goal differential more than -1 was the 4-1 defeat to Sporting KC on Aug. 4th. 

Eduard Atuesta currently leads MLS in passes into the final third, and Carlos Vela sits third in the league in goal-creating actions – now as the season enters the second half, it is vital for those opportunities to find the back of the net. 

LAFC is still sitting on a -7.4 goal difference between its actual goal total and the expected goals metric, and that frustration is beginning to show and was echoed by LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley after the Club’s loss to San Jose.  

“There’s no doubt that we are frustrated as a group. Too many results where we do not find a way to not come out on top,” said Bradley. “You have to compete with them in terms of moments when the game is on their terms and then when we get the chance to play to go in transition to make them pay for certain moments. On our terms, we have to be better.”

LAFC WILL WIN IF

It is the most obvious advice in football, but put simply - if LAFC can play its game and can finish the chances created, they will win. 

ATLANTA UNITED FC CAN WIN IF

They get big performances out of their stars like Josef Martinez – who is one of the most dangerous goal scorers in MLS history.

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Inspired by Atlanta (2016).

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