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Toyota Keys To The Match | LAFC vs Atlanta United 7/26/19

There's always been a bit of a rivalry from afar between these two teams.

Just a year after Atlanta United set the points record for an expansion team in MLS, LAFC broke it. 

That same season, Atlanta went out and won MLS Cup in just its second season. And now, LAFC is in the midst of what could be a record-setting second season of their own in 2019.

So as these two teams meet for the first and only time this regular season, there's a lot of bragging rights on the line.

Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC vs. Atlanta United:

Don't Lose Track Of Josef

Josef Martinez is a bit of a throwback. The type of striker that can go 80 minutes without even sniffing a touch of the ball and then pop up out of nowhere to give his side the lead.

As Martinez goes, so does Atlanta United. He's the focal point to their attack and when he's involved it's usually devastating to the opposition. The difficult part for LAFC is his ability to go quiet for long stretches of the match. Martinez is always looking to be on the end of plays. He might cut a frustrated figure, gesticulating when passes don't come at the right time or attacks break down, but he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. LAFC will need to attentive to Martinez from the opening whistle to the very last kick of the ball.

Secondary Options

Speaking of players to watch, it's no secret what Carlos Vela means to LAFC. The captain's 21 goals this season leads MLS and his 12 assists are second to only Maxi Moralez.

Teams are keying on Vela, which opens space for others across the front line. Players like Diego Rossi and Adama Diomande need to take advantage of the extra attention placed on Vela. If teams are sending extra players to compensate, there will be space to exploit. LAFC is at its best when the attack is fluid. Vela is going to do his thing but the rest of the attack needs to keep Atlanta honest.

Focused Mentality

The incoming from around MLS has been that LAFC can't win big matches. Fair or not, LAFC has a chance to squash that on Friday.

In matches following a loss this season, the Black & Gold are almost unplayable. They've won all three matches following a loss in 2019 and outscored opponents 12-3. With the MLS Cup holders in town, a performance from start to finish would set up LAFC for the run of matches coming after the MLS All-Star Game. 

LAFC needs to raise the level from the opening whistle. Getting the best of the opponent by controlling the match and putting the football on LAFC's terms will be paramount on Friday. If LAFC brings its intensity with its football, there's no team in this league that can match it.