All-Star Week in the A-T-L: MLS vs. Juventus Match Preview

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photo provided by USA Today

Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia

When: August 1, 7:30 pm ET

Where to watch: ESPN, UniMas, TVAS, TSN

Player status update: Aging superstars Zlatan Ibrahimović and David Villa have opted to withdrawal from the match. Zlatan will be resting in order to prevent fatigue as his team heads down the stretch in competition for the playoffs, while David Villa is still suffering from a lingering injury. Also, Atlanta United’s own Darlington Nagbe, who was selected by fans to participate in the match, will not play due to an injury suffered earlier in the season. They will be replaced by NYRB’s Tyler Adams, SKC’s Ilie Sanchez, and MNUFC’s Darwin Quintero (who is shredding opposing defenses right now).

Matchup:

As expected, legendary Italian giant Juventus, (also known as Juve) will not field their best XI in order to prevent risking any injury to their big-name players. The squad brought over by manager Massimiliano Allegri will not feature top-flight attacking talents such as Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, and the most disappointing of all to soccer fans in Atlanta- new acquisition and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. While on paper this sounds like a gloomy set of circumstances, we will still get a chance to see world class talents such as Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic, and Juve’s captain Giorgio Chiellini. Filling out the attack for Juve will be exciting, young attackers who will be trying to earn future playing time and name recognition, which makes for a tough matchup on defense for our All-Stars. Even though this game is considered a friendly, a lot of the young players will be seeing this as their “shot” so we should expect a great effort on their behalf.

This MLS side will feature five members of Atlanta United- Michael Parkhurst, Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almiron, Brad Guzan, and the Venezuelan Viper himself, Josef Martinez. The group will also be managed by our very own Gerardo “Tata” Martino. Tata will select the starting lineup that he feels most comfortable with from the start, but viewers should expect to see a lot of rotation throughout the match. Most if not all players that were selected to the All-Star team should see playing time, because this night is seen more as a celebration of the league, not a meaningful competition. Carlos Vela of LAFC was selected by the fans as captain of the squad, so conventional wisdom tells us that he is likely to start, however we will not truly know the starting XI until it is announced closer to kick-off.

Implications:

Despite this match being a friendly, it is very important for a variety of reasons, starting with what it means for the city of Atlanta. This game gives us a chance to host many amazing events outside of the main event on Wednesday. This includes exciting affairs such as block parties, a live Men in Blazers show, an open training session for our visitors, the Special Olympics Unified Sports All-Star Showcase, a celebration of soccer at the Georgia World Congress center, a TWO CHAINZ CONCERT, and also the MLS Homegrown Match vs. Tigres U-20 squad. These events in addition to the All-Star Game will attract many visitors from abroad to our city, which is good for our cities image, economy, and also shows that we can host major events for really anything (2026 World Cup???). The success of this event can be a HUGE revenue stream for our city, in addition to how AWESOME it is for the good people of Atlanta. Secondly, this game is a huge advertisement for the league, and our players. When the rest of the world sees what we have going on in Atlanta, Georgia they will be blown away by how big MLS is getting. Juve fans and the rest of the world alike will get a chance to see that an MLS event is attracting 72,000+, soccer in America is getting legit, and our fans LOVE some soccer. Not only that but they can see that our players are of quality as well. This game is a huge chance for players like Miguel Almiron to boost their transfer value by showing that they can shine against legit world class competition. This helps the league gain recognition for its player quality, and helps teams like Atlanta United to grow by selling these players for more money than ever before. This game can be a big deal, let’s treat it like one!

Spotlight: MLS Homegrown Match

As I previously mentioned, we will be hosting the MLS Homegrown Match as well at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Grounds. For those that don’t know what this match consists of, it is a team of the league’s very best young domestic players produced by MLS academies. They are selected by the league and matched up with another strong academy competitor from around the world. This year they will host Liga MX U-20 champs Tigres. This is always a very cool event and the Atlanta ties make it even more exciting this season. Atlanta United Academy Director Tony Annan, formerly of Georgia United, will be coaching the homegrown side. He is joined by two Atlanta United Academy products, and beloved attackers Lagos Kunga, and Andrew Carleton who will be wearing the captain’s armband. Carleton, Kunga, Annan, and others such as Alphonso Davies, (who is appearing in the All-Star game) will use this platform to show how the academies in MLS are growing, evolving, and beginning to produce more and more world class talents. They will also get a chance to show their quality within the league and to their respective coaching staffs. This game deserves plenty of respect and attention, so tune in at 8 pm ET on July 31 on UDN and Twitter, or you can purchase tickets to the match with your choice ticket provider.

With all of that said, everybody get out and enjoy the great events happening in our city! This is a celebration, so CELEBRATE! Enjoy the match, enjoy the city, but most of all enjoy yourself! Let’s have some fun y’all!

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