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Know Your Opponent: Atlanta United FC

The Houston Dynamo turnaround quickly from Wednesday's 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union for another matchup against an Eastern Conference foe on Saturday in their first match against expansion side Atlanta United FC (6 p.m. CT | KUBE 57). Atlanta (3-4-3, 12 points) is coming off a strong performance on the road, earning a 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers last Sunday.

After an eventful lead-up to their inaugural season and a hot start, Atlanta United has cooled off a bit with only one win in their last seven games. What’s been the challenge for Atlanta as they adjust to life in MLS?

Clearly the obvious challenge is 7 out of their first 10 games on the road, which is daunting for anyone. Under high profile manager Tata Martino, who was the manager of Argentina and Barcelona, they have been working like many teams on maturing their system, which includes many young, talented, South Americans.

The movement and mobility is evident in the team giving it a distinct Latin flavor. They are coming off a great game growth-wise in a 1-1 draw at Portland that had them with the ball 70% of the time. They essentially de-fanged the Timbers at home in a way I have never seen before. Diego Valeri was frustrated beyond belief and this was done without Josef Martinez.

The result showed growth and was highly impressive from the standpoint of taming and controlling an opponent.

Their big DP signing, the young Paraguayan Miguel Almiron, has proven his quality in the early going with 2 goals and 4 assists. Would you say more importantly than the numbers though, is how he keeps the rhythm of the Atlanta attack going?

He's a passing machine, skilled and he looks like he is about 15 years old.

The Paraguayan has a "free role" floats into different areas and is the "orchestrator" of their attack. With the mobility of Hector Villalba (San Lorenzo), Yamil Assad (Vélez Sarsfield), this is a formidable attacking group that takes a different type of concentration to defend against.

We’ve seen teams have success by allowing the Dynamo to control possession and limit their transition game, do you think Tata Martino has set Atlanta up to be able to play that way? Or do you think we’ll see more of an open game that allows for some goals?

These players on Atlanta United are born to attack so I can't see them at home defending deep.

Many of the teams that have defended deep against the Dynamo have done so after getting the game's first goal and have done it in the second half.
This is what you saw in Philadelphia. So one of the real keys for the Dynamo is to get the game's first goal, and it will likely come through counter attacking football unless the Dynamo and Wilmer Cabrera believe they can press high in Atlanta.

It makes for a tricky but interesting set of tactics between the two managers and how they approach this game. Should the Dynamo press after playing on Wednesday? It could be a very different approach .