Atlanta United face stern test against Sporting KC's league-best defense

Major League Soccer's most electrifying attack will butt heads with the league's best defense on Sunday.

Atlanta United face stern test against Sporting KC's league-best defense
Source: Brett Davis/USA Today Sports

Two playoff contenders square off at Children's Mercy Park on Sunday as Sporting Kansas City welcome Atlanta United to town. Sporting KC currently sit atop the Western Conference on 36 points, while Atlanta United continue to surge up the Eastern Conference standings and sit in fifth on 34 points. 

Sunday will mark the first ever meeting between the two sides, with both teams in top form at the moment.

Team News

Atlanta United: There is bad news yet again for Atlanta as Josef Martinez will miss out once more. The Venezuelan's injury is being taken care of with extreme care and there is no rush to bring him back while he's not 100%. MLS All Star Greg Garza will also miss out on Sunday's game due to a shoulder injury he suffered just minutes into the MLS All-Star game. 

Goalkeeper Alec Kann remains sidelined with a quad injury but new arrival Brad Guzan has taken the number one job and made it his own. 

Mikey Ambrose will step in to fill the void left by Garza and Ambrose has impressed in his brief cameos so far this season. Atlanta are fresh off a doubleheader against rivals Orlando City, winning the first meeting before a 1-1 stalemate in the second game. 

Sporting KC: The Western Conference leaders have been excellent in defense this season, conceding just 17 goals in 22 games. With Tim Melia in goal and the duo of Matt Besler and Ike Opara in front of him, the defense has been almost impenetrable at times.

The hosts will be without just one player on Sunday as forward Cameron Porter is out for the season with a broken fibula. Sporting KC were victorious in their last outing, beating the impressive Chicago Fire 3-2 at home.

What to Watch For

Atlanta United's 41 goals on the season is second in MLS, just one goal behind Toronto FC, who have played two more games. Even without Martinez, Atlanta have called upon the likes of Tito Villalba and Miguel Almiron, who have delivered above and beyond. With that being said, Atlanta will have their work cut out for them playing against the league's best defense. 

Mikey Ambrose will make his first start of the season on Sunday and just his fourth appearance of the campaign. The fullback has impressed in his brief showings but he'll have his hands full this time around. 

Tito Villalba leads Atlanta in goals with ten, the only double digit scorer for the club this season. Yamil Asad has ten assists for the season, tied for most in Major League Soccer. On the other hand, Gerso Fernandes leads Sporting KC with six goals as the conference leaders have struggled for goals. 

Sunday should make for a highly-contested game between two of Major League Soccer's best teams this season. Playoffs are approaching and teams are beginning to prove they have what it takes.