The Philadelphia Union (9-12-9, 36 Pts.,9th Place Eastern Conference) travel to the expansion Atlanta United FC (14-8-7, 49 Pts., 3rd Place) for the first time.
Union/United Series History:
Obviously a short history between these two clubs with the only meeting being the visit by Atlanta to Chester back on 8/26, a come from ahead 2-2 draw. The U gave up two points that would look really huge right now, in stoppage time.
LAST TIME OUT:
Philadelphia is coming off a stayin’ alive, impressive 3-1 win at home over the playoff bound Chicago Fire. The highlight of that one was Chris Pontius, not only getting that elusive first goal of the season, but adding another as well. The Five Stripes last outing was also a win, a 2-0 SO of the Montreal Impact.
WHAT’S AT STAKE:
As they have been for months it seems, the Union are stuck at six points out of the playoffs, but have played one more match than the 6th place New York Red Bulls. With only four games left the U pretty much have to win them all, and hope NYRB stumbles down the stretch, as 5th place Columbus Crew is virtually uncatchable at 11 points ahead. Atlanta is only three points out of second with a game in hand over New York City FC, but at the same time only seven points ahead of the Red Bulls.
Even though the Union held him scoreless the last meeting, United’s man to watch is still FW Josef Martinez. He has been especially good at home where he netted 14 of the 17 tallies (tied for 4th in MLS) on the season. It was rookie D Jack Elliott‘s task to mark him then and the game may depend on him doing so again.
Speaking of 14 goals, that is the total CJ Sapong reached against Chicago. That ties a Union season record (Sebastien Le Toux 2010), as well as adding to his career highs.
The other key player for the U is G Andre Blake. Blake is trying to defend his 2016 MLS GOTY, by putting up a career best 1.23 GAA, and not allowing more than one goal in a match since that last Atlanta tilt.
One thing that will help the Union is that Atlanta’s other top playmaker MF Miguel Almiron (9G, 13A) is out for 3 weeks, while the U are comparatively healthy. Atlanta has been a tough place to play though (10-2-2), with their last L being 4/30 against DC United.
I think that home field advantage will help Atlanta United FC overcome the Union’s desperation mode, with the Boys In Blue settling for a disappointing 1-1 Draw.