MLS Talking Points: Atlanta United's homecoming headlines Week 27

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The expansion team debuts its state-of-the-art stadium as it begins a long home stand, and what Atlanta fans are hoping is a run to the playoffs

One team will unveil its brand new home, while another will return home to try and help its devastated city recover.

The Houston Dynamo are back in action at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, the first match at home since Hurricane Harvey flooded the city of Houston. Proceeds from the Dynamo's match with the Colorado Rapids will go towards storm relief on what promises to be an emotional night, with the Dynamo trying to focus on a win they need to help their playoff position in a tightly contested Western Conference.

In Atlanta, the state-of-the art Mercedes-Benz Stadium will open for soccer business as Atlanta United plays its first match its new home. Tata Martino's men will be hoping the home-field advantage they enjoyed while playing at Bobby Dodd Stadium can carry over to the new facility during a six-match home stand that could help the Five Stripes push their way up the East standings.

Toronto FC is back in action this weekend, looking to continue its seemingly inevitable march to the Supporters' Shield. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are back from international duty and will try to push TFC's unbeaten streak to 10 matches.

Here is a look ahead to some of the key talking points in MLS Week 27:


IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR ... ATLANTA UNITED


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The debut season in MLS has gone about as well as Atlanta United could have hoped, but things could get much, much better now as the first-year club prepare to debut Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The $1.5 billion facility will host an expected sell-out crowd of 42,500 for Sunday's Atlanta United match against FC Dallas, the first of six straight home matches the Five Stripes will play. Though the facility holds 70,000, the capacity for soccer matches will be capped at 42,500 (though the entire stadium will be opened for an upcoming match against Orlando City).

Aside from the allure of moving into a brand new stadium, Atlanta United will be focused on securing precious wins as it looks to shake off a recent four-match winless slide. Currently in sixth place in the East, Atlanta United has multiple games in hand on every team in the top five, and could conceivably climb as high as third in the East with a strong run at home.


DON'T MISS ... NYCFC vs. PORTLAND


Maximilliano Moralez NYCFC 05282017

The hottest team in MLS not named Toronto FC returns to action at Yankee Stadium, with New York City trying to push its unbeaten run to six matches against an in-form Portland Timbers side that won't be a pushover.

NYCFC is 9-2-2 since the start of June, and showed Wednesday against Sporting KC that it can win even without David Villa, who missed the match with an injury picked up while on national team duty with Spain. Patrick Vieira's side will likely need Villa on Saturday though, against a Timbers squad that is 4-1-2 in its past seven. 

For the Timbers, a win, or even a draw, at Yankee Stadium is crucial considering they are just a point out of first, but also packed in a West where the top seven teams are separated by just six points. Having Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman back healthy from international duty should provide a big boost, as Fanendo Adi and Liam Ridgwell are still questionable for the match.


MATCH-UPS TO WATCH


Sacha Kljestan Dax McCarty MLS 09082017

Sacha Kljestan vs. Dax McCarty . Old friends and former teammates renew acquaintances in what should be a fierce midfield battle.

Josef Martinez vs. Matt Hedges . Martinez has shown he can be extremely tough to track when he's on, but Hedges is one of the league's best defenders.

Clint Dempsey vs. Jermaine Jones . These familiar U.S. national team veterans know each other well, and Jones will need to keep Dempsey contained if the Galaxy have any chance of an upset.

Kei Kamara vs. Laurent Ciman . Kamara has been on a roll lately, but Ciman is capable of keeping him quiet.

Maxi Moralez vs. David Guzman . Moralez has been key to NYCFC's attack this season, but Guzman has a way of making things tough on playmakers.

Cyle Larin vs. Steve Birnbaum . Larin and Birnbaum have had their share of battles before, but with Dom Dwyer around, Birnbaum could find the going much tougher.

Benny Feilhaber vs. Wil Trapp . Controlling possession will be key in the Crew-Sporting KC battle, and Trapp's ability to neutralize passing lanes will be vital against Feilhaber.

Nicolas Lodeiro vs. Ashley Cole . The Galaxy defense is a mess, with Cole a rare bright spot. But can the aging fullback handle Lodeiro?

Drew Moor vs. Marco Urena . Fresh off an incredible three-goal display in the September World Cup qualifiers for Costa Rica, can Urena carry the momentum onto the club level? Moor will be in charge of seeing that he doesn't.

Michael Barrios vs. Greg Garza . A speed-on-speed battle here, as Barrios looks to test Garza, who is surely eager to show Bruce Arena he's worth a look with the USMNT.


WEEK 27 PREDICTIONS


Cristian Roldan Gyasi Zardes MLS 07292017

FIRE 2 , Red Bulls 1. After halting a four-match losing slide with a big road win in Montreal, Chicago returns to Toyota Park and earns a vital home win as Dax McCarty enjoys some revenge against his former club.

TORONTO FC 3, Earthquakes 0. An international break isn't what any red-hot team wants, but don't expect a let-up as TFC continues to dominate. Giovinco should run wild against San Jose's defense.

NEW YORK CITY FC 2, Timbers 1. If David Villa returns to action, this one will be a comfortable win for NYCFC.

D.C. UNITED 1, Orlando City 0. You may not think D.C. has anything to play for, but building momentum toward a big 2018 is important, and Orlando City just looks lost these days.

REVOLUTION 3, Impact 1. Lee Nguyen to Kei Kamara should continue to be the supply line that inches the Revs further up the East standings, while the Impact continues to slide.

MINNESOTA UNITED 2, Union 1. The Loons should follow up their big win in Chicago with a home victory against a Union side playing out the string.

DYNAMO 2, Rapids 0. An emotionally charged night at BBVA Compass Stadium should problem Erick Torres to a big night against a Rapids team circling the drain.

WHITECAPS 2, Real Salt Lake 1. RSL has won three of four, but none of those wins were at home so look for the Whitecaps to keep rolling.

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CREW 2, Sporting Kansas City 1. Fatigue should be a factor in this one after Sporting KC played its starters in a midweek loss to NYCFC. Ola Kamara and Kekuta Manneh lead the way.

ATLANTA UNITED 3, FC Dallas 1. Mercedes-Benz Stadium should be rocking, and Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron should spearhead a comfortable win against an FC Dallas side winless in seven straight.

SOUNDERS 4, Galaxy 0. The Sounders attack is rolling and the Galaxy's defense is in shambles. Sigi Schmid's return to Seattle won't be a pleasant one, as Clint Dempsey continues his goal-scoring run.

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