On Sunday, Atlanta United faces off against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium in the first round of the 2021 Major League Soccer playoffs.
Why it matters: Atlanta United won its first (and thus far only) MLS Cup in 2018, but sat out last year's tournament.
- If you don’t follow the team, don’t worry, we’re here to help, with the help of our friends.
Who to watch: On the Atlanta side, it’s Santiago Sosa, a defensive midfielder who’s been out since an injury since Oct. 20th — the last time the Five Stripes played the New York team.
- “Atlanta has felt his absence keenly in recent weeks,” Payson Schwin, a Dirty South Soccer contributor, tells Axios. “Sosa will need to step up big to support his backline as they cope with a potent NYCFC attack that features MLS MVP candidate Valentín ‘Taty’ Castellanos.”
Don't forget Josef Martinez, Jillian Sakovits, an MLS and Atlanta United host and sideline reporter, tells Axios.
- The 2018 MLS MVP is coming off a golazo against FC Cincinnati that secured Atlanta United a playoff spot. "Josef during the playoffs is a whole other beast," Sakovits says. "I am eager to see what [Martinez] has in store after he and his team missed the 2020 playoffs completely."
Know their weak spots: Key NYCFC defensive players are out due to injuries.
- Atlanta must contain Castellanos and midfielder Maxi Moralez, says Jason Longshore, an Atlanta United commentator and host of Soccer Down Here. If they do so, "[the team] will absolutely have opportunities to get at the NYC defense."
New terrain: Yankee Stadium is a unique venue. "Needless to say, soccer wasn't meant to be played there," Sydney Hunte, a Dirty South Soccer contributor, tells Axios. "[B]ut on NYCFC's end it's been able to use that to its advantage."
What’s next: The fun starts at 3pm on ABC and ESPN Deportes.
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