Preview: Red Bulls Welcome Atlanta to MLS

MATT KREMKAU

by ANTHONY J. MERCED

The New York Red Bulls will kickoff their 2017 Major League Soccer season by welcoming one of the league’s newest teams, Atlanta United, at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday evening. It is New York’s second game in four days and third competitive match of the season.

Coach Jesse Marsch and his team did not start the year as expected, falling short of advancing in the CONCACAF Champions League. A truncated preseason and two competitive games, however, could provide the motivation for the team to avoid a slow start in league play. New York started 2016 MLS campaign with a 1-6 record before a turnaround saved the season.

Atlanta United and its fans will provide the energy as the Argentine Coach Gerardo Martino leads a group that has high expectations despite being an expansion team. MLS veterans Michael Parkhurst, Kenwyne Jones and Jeff Larentowicz join rising stars Greg Garza, Yasmil Asad and Josef Martinez. Martino is known for having well-organized teams who know what to do with the ball in the offensive third.


PROJECTED STARTERS:

New York Red Bulls: Robles; Lawrence, Collin, Perrinelle, Zizzo; Davis, Felipe, Kljestan, Royer, Muyl; Wright-Phillips

Atlanta United: Kann; Garza, Pirez, Parkhurst, Mears; Larentowicz, Carmona, Asad, Almiron, Carleton; Martinez

Player to Watch: Sacha Kljestan has a lot to prove after subpar performances in the CCL. The captain not only missed a penalty but wasn’t as effective in his distribution while leaving gaps on the left side of the field. Should Marsch go back to the 4-2-3-1 formation that worked so effectively over the past two seasons, Kljestan should return to being one of the most dangerous players on the field.

X-Factor: Injuries are already becoming an issue with New York after the early substitution of Gonzalo Verón on Wednesday night. Mike Grella is returning to match fitness and Muyl appears to be back after a nasty facial injury in preseason. The Red Bulls will need to stay healthy after such a quick turnaround in Vancouver.

Where to Watch: Fox Sports 1, 7:30 p.m. Eastern, Sunday.