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Atlanta, Dallas square off in battle of conference leaders

Jun 29, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota United midfielder Collen Warner (26) defends FC Dallas midfielder Roland Lamah (20) in the second half at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

FRISCO, Texas- FC Dallas will welcome Atlanta United to Toyota Stadium for the team’s annual Fourth of July match Wednesday. 

Dallas grabbed three points on the road against Minnesota United last week. Roland Lamah provided the only goal of the match and the team withstood late pressure from the Loons and Darwin Quintero, who created many opportunities with his pace and technical ability.

“We always want to play well,” defender Reggie Cannon said. “We always want to be the protagonist of the game. But sometimes, the game isn’t going to allow that and you just have to find a way to get three points and I think the team did that really well against Minnesota.”

There has been plenty of speculation around FCD with the transfer of Anton Nedyalkov and the looming transfer of Mauro Diaz, which was reported by The Athletic earlier this week. Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said each season comes with its challenges, and the team must work through them.

“It has been a challenge,” Pareja said. “Somehow, you have to find ways to deal with it. What I understand also, the team has the capacity and the matureness, despite our youth, to understand that this creates an opportunity to somebody else. It creates an opportunity for us to grow in a different manner. We always want it to be perfect. We want to lead the league, we want to play good soccer, we want to be the team who has the less goals against and the most in favor. You have to deal with adversity. The situation with the players, in the case of Anton and Mauro, it’s difficult but, we’re moving on. We’re moving forward.”

Still, Dallas (9-2-5, 32 points) is atop the Western Conference in second place and tied in points with first-place Sporting Kansas City.

Atlanta United (11-3-4, 37 points) brings its high-flying offense to Frisco for the first time in team history. The Eastern Conferemce leader is coming off a 4-0 victory over rival Orlando City and leads the league in goals scored. The attack is led by Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez, who have 8 and 15 goals, respectively.

The Five Stripes will be missing Darlington Nagbe, one if its key midfield pieces, due to a groin injury. Hector Villaba has been reinserted in the starting lineup after previously being benched following a strong 2017 campaign where he had 13 goals and 11 assists. It’s the attacking depth of Atlanta that makes them different from most teams.

Dallas’ last matchup against Atlanta was a 3-0 defeat in the first-ever soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“They’re probably the most dynamic team in MLS right now, excluding us,” Cannon said. “They can go from defending on one end to scoring on the other. They’re a very transition-wise team and they’re very, very dangerous on the counter-attack. I think it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

Pareja complimented the investment Atlanta has made in the league, but says the team is ready for the challenge presented.

“I talk a lot about what this complexion of the league is,” Pareja said. “It seems like it never ends, thinking about how the next challenge is higher than the last, or at least the same. Every team has different challenges. I don’t remember really a moment where I say, ‘It’s an easy game’ or if I think the game is out of our reach. We don’t think like that. For sure, it’s a good team. For sure, they have good individuals. The investment that Atlanta has made into the league and their team is different from any. Maybe, they’re expecting to go and beat everybody. We believe in ourselves and we believe in what we are and we just keep pushing.”

Match Information:

Where: Toyota Stadium (Frisco, Texas)

When: July 4, 7:00 PM CST

Broadcast: TXA 21; Radio- FCDallas.com/Radio (English), 1270AM (Spanish)

Stream: ESPN+, DAZN

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