Los Angeles FC-Atlanta United Preview

Los Angeles FC is looking to regroup after squandering a three-goal advantage in a deflating loss last week to the Los Angeles Galaxy, the expansion franchise’s new in-state rival. Bouncing back against explosive Atlanta United on the road won’t be easy, though.

LAFC visits United on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first meeting between the two young franchises. Atlanta reached the MLS Cup playoffs last year in its debut season.

LAFC is trying to follow United’s lead and is off to 2-1 start in its inaugural campaign. They were 30 minutes from being perfect, only to surrender four goals to the Galaxy in the second half, including two in the final 14 minutes from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a 4-3 loss.

“I don’t want players, after a match like that, failing to recognize the way we’re moving forward as a team,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley told the team’s website. “I don’t want guys looking for answers. I want everyone to understand through 240 minutes of our first MLS season, we had scored nine goals and given up one. And then in the last 30 (minutes), I just thought we got away from playing our football.”

United is coming off an impressive 1-0 win at Minnesota, despite playing a man down for the entire second half. Atlanta made an early own-goal from Minnesota stand up and improved to 3-1 on the young MLS season.

“I think it was a sense of determination, togetherness, fight and spirit,” Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan said after the game. “This is a big step forward for us. When people think of Atlanta United they think of pretty football, and tonight we showed another side. We showed that we could compete and that we could battle.”

Atlanta may need a similar effort on Saturday. United will be without defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who received a red card in the 38th minute against Minnesota. Defender Franco Escobar is out with a concussion and defender Greg Garza is listed as questionable.

Atlanta also is still waiting to get touted midfielder Ezequiel Barco, who was signed in the offseason, but has missed the start of the season with a quad injury.

“The first challenge for us is being able to manage, so many absences,” Atlanta coach Tata Martino told reporters this week. “The second part is being able to defend their attacking quartet. It’s a big challenge, because our absences favor the strengths of their team.”