Can United win the CONCACAF Champions League?

Coverage starts at 9:30 Thursday night on 92.9 The Game

John and Hugh
February 21, 2019 - 11:24 am
 Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez

© John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

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They were just crowned as MLS Cup champions back in December, and Thursday, Atlanta United returns to action in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament in Costa Rica when they face Herediano.

92-9 The Game Atlanta United soccer analyst Jason Longshore previewed tonight's match with John and Hugh earlier today, and even though they only been in the area for a few hours, Longshore was pleasantly surprised with the interest from the local community.

"This is a big deal in Costa Rica for Herediano.  They’re also team that prides itself on pulling upsets in CONCACAF Championship play.  They've really given Mexican clubs battles over the year.  This is the biggest match in Herediano’s season, and this could be a tough one for Atlanta United tonight.”

He says it should be around 70 degrees and a little breezy for the match against Herediano, and he was a little taken aback at the media interest in the team when they arrived, adding that there were about 40-50 Riverplate fans, "it's a club with a worldwide following - who came out to chant for Pity Martinez and sing for him during the press conference and the training session. This is a club that will draw in this tournament.”

With everyone saying this is a big deal, what does it mean for United if they lose tonight?

“It's a two-leg series.  It’s like the playoffs last year, with the second game back in Kennesaw next Thursday," Longshore said.  "It's a 180-minute game...so it’s not a must-win.  You can't with the leg in the first half, but you can lose it if you fall behind.  If it’s a narrow game, it’ll put more pressure on next week’s game at Kennesaw.”

He thinks you'll see a team that focuses more on possession under new coach Frank de Boer, by controlling the ball and limiting the chances of the opponent.

Longshore also believes the team will be more 'dynamic' - in the way they change positions - in 2019 and not as structured, as team captain Michael Parkhurst said De Boer has worked really hard on getting the team to work on recovering their shape to protect the goal.

Finally, he said tonight's match is big for both MLS and Herediano, because while Herediano is representing a country; for Atlanta United and MLS, it’s important to win this for an MLS team, because it’s never been done before in league history.