Atlanta United v DC United, Sunday July 21, 21:00
Last year’s MLS champions face up to one of this season’s big challengers on Sunday as two Uniteds go head to head in the day’s big Eastern Conference clash.
Atlanta may have taken MLS by storm in their second season in 2018, but when it comes to this particular Eastern Conference rivalry, the older team has had the best of it. This will be their sixth competitive meeting, and DC United have won four of the previous five, doing the double over Atlanta in 2017 and scoring an impressive 3-1 home win against a high-flying Atlanta side in their second meeting last season. And DC extended their dominance with a 2-0 win in their first game of 2019.
Curse of the Defending Champions
Defending the MLS Cup is tough. Since the league was founded in 1996, only three teams have managed to win back-to-back titles. This may be to do with the dramatic expansion of the number of teams in the league from 10 in 2003 to 24 this season, and the demands of the CONCACAF Champions League which takes place during the MLS pre-season. Whatever the cause, the curse of defending the MLS Cup has struck for Atlanta, who go into this game with just four wins in their last ten, although they did score a healthy 5-0 win over Houston last time.
DC United started the season strongly, but have run out of steam in recent weeks, and have won just two of their last ten. An inability to turn dominance into points has been their main problem, and six of those ten games ended in a draw. Their strong start has insulated them to a degree, and they are still second in the Eastern Conference, thanks to a 4-1 win over bottom club FC Cincinnati on Thursday, but with Atlanta just two points behind in third, they need to rediscover their form.
Atlanta Odds On
Under Frank de Boer, Atlanta have lacked the spark of last season, but they are still dangerous, particularly at home, and go into this game as the 8/13 favourites, with DC priced at 9/2. But given the visitors draw habit, some MLS punters will be tempted by the 17/5 on a Sunday stalemate.