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Atlanta United-Whitecaps FC Preview
The teams just below the playoff cutoff line in Major League Soccer's Eastern and Western Conferences meet Saturday when expansion Atlanta United visits the Vancouver Whitecaps for a match at B.C. Place.
Atlanta is riding a three-game unbeaten streak and is looking for its third win in a row as it makes its first-ever visit to Vancouver. Atlanta (5-4-3) sits seventh in the East, two points behind the New York Red Bulls.
Vancouver is seventh in the West, a point behind the LA Galaxy. The Whitecaps (5-6-1) lost two of their past three games, including a 1-0 defeat to D.C. United on May 27 at B.C. Place.
The Whitecaps are wary of Atlanta's offense, which is tied with the Houston Dynamo for the MLS lead with 27 goals.
"I think their attacking four is playing very well right now," Vancouver defender Jordan Harvey told whitecapsfc.com. "I've been watching them from a distance, their signings and how they've built their team. It's an attacking brand, so we just have to do what we've been doing.
"It's cliche, but focusing on us and how we've been playing because it's been very, very good. If we do that at home, and produce as many chances as we did last game, I'm confident a few will go in."
Atlanta and Vancouver are tied for sixth in the 22-team league in goals conceded, each having surrendered 17.
Each team has one player listed as questionable due to an injury: Vancouver forward Bernie Ibini, who has a strained right hamstring, and Atlanta forward Josef Martinez, who has a left quad ailment. Martinez is tied with Hector Villalaba for second on the team with five goals; only Miguel Almiron (seven) has more.
Atlanta will get back manager Gerardo "Tata" Martino, who served a suspension last during his team's 3-1 victory against New York City FC. The ban was for his ejection the prior week in a 4-1 victory over Houston.
Martino, talking about what he learned from the suspension, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "I can't get kicked out again. I've suffered enough."
Referring to watching from the stands instead of the sideline, he joked, "The team didn't play bad, so I may stay up there."
Vancouver will welcome back midfielder Matias Laba, who served a suspension last week for yellow-card accumulation.
While national-team call-ups are leaving many MLS teams short-handed this weekend, neither Atlanta nor Vancouver will be missing any players due to international duty.
Updated June 3, 2017