FC Dallas, Atlanta United clash on Fourth of July

There will be plenty of fireworks scheduled for the Fourth of July, but the show they produce may have to take a back seat to the expected product on the pitch Wednesday when FC Dallas hosts Atlanta United in a key MLS battle at Toyota Stadium in the north Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas.

Atlanta United (11-3-4) heads to the Lone Star State as the Supporters’ Shield leader and riding a six-match unbeaten streak that includes a 4-0 win over Orlando City FC on Saturday.

But FC Dallas will be a worthy foe, and the Huntsmen are especially tough on their home pitch, where they are undefeated in nine matches this season.

The offensive floodgates opened for Atlanta United against Orlando, especially for Miguel Almiron, who scored twice and had an assist on a third goal for the Five Stripes.

Almiron had gone nine matches without a goal leading up to the Saturday explosion but afterward was self-effacing and complimentary of the role his teammates played in getting him chances.

He said he felt comfortable being back on the field with Hector “Tito” Villalba and Martinez.

“I’m really happy with the victory, more so for how the team played as a whole and not because of the goals,” he said. “Villalba and Martinez and I played all last season together as starters, so it’s nothing new. Those guys make everything easier for me.”

And while Atlanta United is considered an offensive-minded side, defense has made a difference during the past month. Since conceding three goals in a loss to the New York Red Bulls on May 20, Atlanta United has allowed just four in MLS play during its six-game streak (three wins, three draws).

FC Dallas (9-2-5) bounced back from a second road loss to New York this season — its only two defeats in 2018 — to beat Minnesota United FC 1-0 on Friday. Roland Lamah’s goal in the 59th minute proved to be the difference, as he headed home a Santiago Mosquera corner kick.

“It’s a great result for us,” FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “The boys did a fantastic job in the way we planned and the way we visualized the game. They executed with such great discipline against a rival.”

FC Dallas started five homegrown players, matching its MLS record set in 2015, including defender Kris Reaves, who made his professional debut.

Reaves returned to training just two weeks ago after rehab from sports hernia surgery in April. He played 78 minutes in his first start, making one tackle, four interceptions, four clearances and seven recoveries.

“Super, super emotional,” the 22-year-old Reaves said after the win. “I’ve dreamt about this for a long time. I came into the Academy when I was 16, and it’s a really special feeling. I have to say a thank you to the teammates and coaches and everyone in the organization for helping make this day come true for me.”

FC Dallas has won six of its past nine games in league play (one loss, two draws) and are unbeaten in its last 15 home matches (seven wins, eight draws). It is their longest unbeaten streak at home since 19 games, from Aug. 29, 2015 to Sept. 3, 2016 (15 wins, four draws).

Atlanta forged a 3-0 win at home last September against FC Dallas in the teams’ only previous league meeting.