Two of the three most recent MLS franchises are set to face off today, when LAFC take on Atlanta United. Both clubs have fired themselves into the limelight over the last few weeks, and ahead of their clash at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, LAFC manager Bob Bradley has pointed towards parallels between his side and their Eastern Conference counterparts.
Atlanta United FC were one of the stand out teams of the 2017 MLS season, finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference, and reaching the knockout rounds of the playoffs. United have experienced a fine start to their current campaign, bouncing back from a 4-0 opening day defeat to Houston Dynamos, with three consecutive wins over D.C. United, Vancouver, and Minnesota United.
LAFC are this season’s new kids on the block, have garnered a tonne of hype due to their celebrity investors and marquee signings. The franchise got off to a remarkable start this season by beating 2016 MLS Cup winners Seattle Sounders 1-0, and claiming an emphatic 5-1 victory over Real Salt Lake. Bob Bradley’s side were dealt a harsh reality check last week however, when they lost 4-3 to rivals LA Galaxy, thanks to a second-half masterclass from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Los Angeles derby result will have done little to bolster LAFC’s confidence, but they face another huge test today against a Atlanta United side that more than proved their worth last season.
“I think there are some similarities,” said LAFC head coach Bob Bradley ahead the match. “Obviously they started last year with some exciting attacking players, they had some games early on where they scored goals and created excitement.”
His sentiments were backed up by LAFC defender Steven Beitashour, who added: “Atlanta has been super at home,”
“There is just something about playing in front of their home crowd. Whether it’s their field, that stadium, they have a buzz to them so it’s going to be tough place to play.”
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic temporarily stealing the focus from LAFC’s positive start to the 2018 season, the club now have an opportunity to make a statement, and Bob Bradley is eager to keep his players grounded, insisting that they are not yet ready to compete with some of the MLS’ more dominant clubs.
“We start with some excitement, but we still know there are a lot of things that need to happen to be more complete, to manage games better, to connect passes better, have more possession, all this kind of stuff. We’re not the complete deal by any means,” he said.