Competition: Major League Soccer – Atlanta United vs. New York Red Bulls
Venue: Bobby Dodd Stadium – Sunday, March 5 – 19:00 ET (00:00 GMT)
Match Odds: Atlanta United 17/10 – Draw – 9/4 – New York Red Bulls 6/4
Sunday night will see the first match of Atlanta United’s Major League Soccer tenure as they welcome New York Red Bulls to Bobby Dodd stadium, where 50,000 Atlanta fans will be in full voice for what is a historic day for the club.
Both teams will be competing in the newly expanded eleven-team Eastern Conference, so this is a chance to pick up early points in a highly competitive division. Atlanta couldn’t have picked a much tougher opener than facing 2016’s Eastern winners in the Red Bulls.
Atlanta United will begin life in MLS looking good on paper, having recruited well this offseason. Good pickups in Brad Guzan, Greg Garza and Kenwyne Jones all with proven international experience will set a solid base going forward, although Guzan won’t be available until he joins in the summer.
The most impressive of Atlanta’s acquisitions is former Barcelona and Argentina manager, Gerardo Martino who obviously brings an impressive resume and a wealth of knowledge. No prizes for guessing how we expect his new Atlanta team to play, with a high-pressing nature expected from the outset.
New York Red Bulls’ search for an MLS Cup goes on. After a brilliant regular season last term they fell short in the playoffs and will be wanting to go one further this year. They don’t seem to have strengthened this offseason but still have a solid group of players that will expect to challenge high up the East once again.
Jesse Marsch has managed to keep all his attacking tools for a title push again, with captain Sacha Kljestan and golden boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips still key. Dax McCarty may be gone, but you have to think they will be in the mix for the MLS Cup come the end of the season again.
Atlanta’s preseason form: W/L/W/W
New York Red Bulls preseason form: W/W/W/W/W/D/D/W/L
Key Stat: Slow starters – New York Red Bulls managed to lead the Eastern Conference last season, despite losing six of their first seven matches.
Key Player: Kenwyne Jones – Former Premier League striker Jones brings a huge presence to the Atlanta attack and will be handful for the Red Bulls defence that could be missing Gideon Baah on Sunday evening. Jones has young, talented attacking support around him that should provide him with plenty of chances.
Atlanta United 1-1 New York Red Bulls – Playing their first game at home should ease Atlanta into the swing of the league, but the welcome of the reigning Eastern Conference leaders will be a tough test. A score draw seems the most likely result, but this is a really tough one to call.