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Atlanta United latest challenge for LAFC

(Image: Twitter/@ATLUTD)

One week after a star forward was their undoing in a defeat, Los Angeles FC will face another scoring threat when they take on visiting Atlanta United FC on Friday night.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored three goals as the Los Angeles Galaxy defeated LAFC 3-2 on July 19. Now comes none other than reigning MLS Most Valuable Player Josef Martinez and an Atlanta United side that looks daunting after two shutout victories.

Altering the outlook significantly is the fact that LAFC (14-3-4, 46 points) will play at home, where the team is 8-0-1 and continues to be the only MLS team without a loss on its own turf.

LAFC have two defeats in their past three games, but one of those losses came in the U.S. Open Cup to the Portland Timbers on July 10. Of note was that the 1-0 setback did come at home.

“The idea is after losses to not go crazy. To still look at things that need to be improved,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said, according to lafc.com. “So often, it’s just a continuation of ideas that have been there throughout and getting everybody refocused that as a good team, the next game is important. A strong response is something that they want to shoot for. The guys have done a fantastic job at handling that part.”

Atlanta United’s Martinez had just moved past Ibrahimovic and into second place behind LAFC’S Carlos Vela on the list of the league’s top goal scorers, but now Martinez is tied with the Galaxy striker at 16 goals each. Vela has a comfortable lead with 21 goals.

Martinez missed three games between June 26 and July 3 when he was on international duty, but he has scored a goal in each of the past seven MLS games he has played dating to May 24. He notched two goals in four of those games, the most recent in a 5-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo on July 17.

Even more significant is that Atlanta midfielder Pity Martinez seems to have resolved a dispute with head coach Frank de Boer over some questionable passes in a June 29 victory over the Montreal Impact. Pity Martinez came on as a substitute on Sunday against D.C. United and scored the go-ahead goal in the 89th minute before adding an assist in Atlanta’s 2-0 win.

That dispute seemingly resolved, Atlanta (11-8-3, 36 points) now will try to make its opponent uncomfortable. Vela did score two goals in the defeat against the Galaxy. A physical approach against LAFC, much like the Galaxy showed, might be Atlanta United’s plan of attack.

“You have to make it difficult,” Atlanta United midfielder Emerson Hyndman said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “If you do tactical side well, but individually, you let (Vela) go by you, it’s a problem. He’s really good cutting inside. You have to have numbers around him.”

REUTERS/Field Level Media

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