A match featuring two of the top MLS sides, one of whom is the current national champion, should usually be seen as a knife-edge battle where anything can happen. However, this meeting of the Western Conference leaders and the 2018 champions is being seen in the US sports press as a home banker. There are various reasons for this: Atlanta’s away form under new coach Frank de Boer has been patchy at best, while LA are comfortably striding away with the Western Conference, currently holding a nine-point lead over city rivals the Galaxy even after losing last weekend’s derby.
Of course, just because LAFC are favourites, that doesn’t mean they’re certain to win this evening. They aren’t without their vulnerabilities, as a Zlatan Ibrahimovic hat-trick last weekend proves. If United can shake off the road worries that have left them with seven defeats from ten away assignments, they could well take the points here.
Los Angeles FC vs Atlanta United Prediction: Los Angeles FC 2-1 Atlanta United
The West Coast side are where they are thanks in no small part to an attack that can hurt any opponent. They’ve accumulated 55 goals in their 21 games so far, and can call upon Carlos Vela who has notched more than a goal per game this campaign. Of course, United have a hot-shot forward in their ranks too, with Josef Martinez – reigning league MVP – on sixteen goals in the league to this point. Both defences are likely to be tested here, and it’s reasonable to expect that, even if LA emerge with the points, the visitors will get on the scoresheet at some stage.
Our recommended tip: LAFC and BTTS
Both of these sides, it’s fair to say, are better going forward than they are further back, and with strikers such as Vela, Martinez, and Diego Rossi among the players on show there’s every chance for a toe-to-toe battle on a summer’s Friday evening in downtown LA. At Betway, you can get odds of 6/4 on the home side to win but both teams to score at least once. Given the quality of the attacking players on show, that feels like a bet worth making.
There’s not a huge amount of history connecting these sides, largely because they are relatively new clubs – LA entering the league last season while Atlanta themselves are only a year older. They did meet last season, and it went very much in United’s favour as they emerged 5-0 winners. Granted, as one-sided as the scoreline makes it look, Atlanta did score three times between the 88th minute and the final whistle, with Miguel Almiron grabbing two late goals from the penalty spot. The Paraguayan is now at Newcastle United – another possible reason for Atlanta’s slight backslide in form.
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Players to watch: Diego Rossi & Gonzalo Martinez
Although Vela’s record of scoring more than one goal a game is beyond impressive, tonight’s match may turn more on the performance of young Uruguayan Rossi, who’s chipped in with eleven in 21 games. That’s still a hugely impressive tally and is a reason why Atlanta cannot just focus on the Mexican veteran. Alongside Norwegian target man Adama Diomande, Rossi is a demonstration of just how much depth the Los Angeles side can call upon in forward areas.
Atlanta’s title win last season was all the more impressive for the fact that it came in just their second campaign, and the loss of a key player such as Almiron was always going to be hard to recover from. Signed from River Plate to replace the Paraguayan, Martinez is showing signs that he may be ideal for the job. He scored an 89th-minute goal to break the deadlock in last weekend’s 2-0 win over DC United, and his work in the No. 10 role will be vital in continuing to get the best out of his namesake Josef.