Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host its first international soccer match Wednesday night, as Mexico and Venezuela will face off starting at 9 p.m.
The two biggest headlines heading into the international friendly are:
— Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez will have the opportunity to represent Venezuela in front of the city that watches him play every weekend.
— Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, Atlanta United’s manager during the first two years of the franchise, will be back at the Benz for the first time since leading the Five Stripes to victory in MLS Cup last December.
“(Tata) gave a lot to me, to the team, and to the city. I think he gave all the players confidence, and he made us all believe in ourselves, and he gave a lot to us, so we tried to give a lot back to him,” Martinez said postgame Sunday night about what Martino means to him. “I think that is why we won a Championship, so I think it will be a nice game that he is coming back to Atlanta. We have to enjoy it because this is his home, it has always been his home, and he deserves it.”
For Mexico, the international friendly will prepare Martino and company for the Gold Cup, the biggest national team tournament in CONCACAF. “El Tri” will face Cuba, Canada, and Martinique in the group stage of the tournament.
Meanwhile, for Venezuela, the team will compete in Copa America, South America’s biggest national team in a tournament, and they will face Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia in the group stage.
Mexico is no stranger to the city of Atlanta, as they had previously played five times at the now demolished Georgia Dome, with the last time being in 2016 when Mexico defeated Paraguay 1-0.
“It is going to be special because this is my home, so it is going to be a little strange to put on a different jersey in this stadium, but to wear the National Team jersey here means a lot. We have to enjoy this game, so I am going to try and enjoy it, and I hope the fans enjoy it as well,” Martinez said about representing Venezuela at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “You know, memories last a lot longer than your career, so when you are done playing, these are the memories that you look back on that you have.”