Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Atlanta United

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Who: Philadelphia Union (Major League Soccer) vs. Atlanta United (Major League Soccer)

What: 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.  Quarterfinal Round, second leg.

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, PA

When: Tuesday, May 4 at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern)

Watch: FS1

Whistle: Armando Villareal; Corey Parker, Logan Brown; Ted Unkel; Edvin Jurisevic, Tim Ford

The Union meet Atlanta United on Tuesday night  for the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals, and barring catastrophe, will continue forward to the Semi-finals.  Last Tuesday, the Union held off an early onslaught by Atlanta and pulled out an exceptional 3-0 win.  Goalkeeper Andre Blake was huge in keeping Atlanta off the board until the Union’s counter-attack began to hum.

Because the scoring is aggregated over the two game series, Atlanta will need to score early and often in order to make up the 3 goal deficit.  The Union on the other hand can defend a three goal lead for 90 minutes. Note that only Mexico’s Club America has ever overcome a three goal deficit in CONCACAF Champions league play history.

The winner of this round plays the winner of Club America/Portland Timbers who battled to a 1-1 draw last Wednesday. The semifinal round doesn’t  begin until mid-August.

Scouting Report: Atlanta United

Atlanta dug themselves a hole, and they’ll need a three-goal-sized shovel to dig out.  There can be no sitting back, happy with a point on the road.  Its sudden death, pedal to the metal, go for broke, leave nothing on the field, etc. for them.  In the first match, Atlanta threw numbers forward and with some crisp buildup and long diagonals were able to create numerous chances.  Expect a repeat of this strategy.

New coach Gabriele Heinze has brought back some excitement to Atlanta’s style of play. They are fluid in their positions and often seem to play without a formation.  They are all about rotating, reading movements and keeping width and spacing, and, they now have the personnel to execute.  Josef Martinez is back from a year-long injury.  He is not yet back to his old self but it will show up.  Midfielder Ezequiel Barco has finally been playing up to his potential and Jürgen Damm gave fits to Kai Wagner last game.  However, in a break for the Union, those two midfielders will be out due to injuries sustained over the weekend.  Overall, Atlanta has looked good attacking but has had problems finishing.

Injury Report: Out: Alec Kann, Mo Adams, Matheus Rosetto. 

Ezequiel Barco and Jurgen Damm are not on the official list but reportedly did not travel with the team.

Suspended:  None

Scouting report: Union

Pretty simple strategy for the Union Tuesday night.  Bunker down, absorb the pressure that Atlanta is forced to apply and pick the moments for the quick counterattack using the speed of Sergio Santos and the precision of Champions League leading goal scorer,  Kacper Przybylko .

Defensive midfielder Jose Martinez will miss the game as he is out due to yellow card accumulation in the tournament (he is also out of the next MLS game for a red card -how many players can make that claim?).  Newcomer Leon Flach will move back from his now customary position on the left side of the diamond to the defensive midfield.  This is Flach’s natural position so he should be able to maintain his surprisingly high level of play.

The key to the game is the play of the defensive backs.  Both Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes have been a bit shaky at times both in their defending and passing,  Fortunately for the team Andre Blake has bailed them out but the team cannot count on Blake’s superhuman performance to continue indefinitely.

Injury Report:  OUT: Ilsinho, Jack de Vries

Suspension Report:  Jose Martinez

Key Matchup:  Glesnes and Elliott vs. Josef Martinez

Atlanta has to attack and attack more. Wagner gets a break with Damm being out but both wingers need to be sure they are not caught upfield. And Glesnes and Elliott will have to be sharp because Josef is very capable of punishing any mistake.

Player to Watch: Leon Flach

When Martinez is tuned in, he is among the best and the Union will miss him.  The base of the diamond will be of extreme importance in this game to break up Atlanta’s forays before they get started.  

Prediction:  Philadelphia 1-1 Atlanta

Atlanta will control possession but will not be able to fully break throughHere’s to a boring, drama-less game so the Union can move onto the semi-finals and  concentrate on MLS.


Philadelphia Union:    +152

Atlanta United:            +170

Draw:                           +229

Note: This is for the match, not the aggregate.



  1. pragmatist says:

    A boring draw would be fine. I suspect Atlanta will win, but not by enough to overturn the first leg.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Yeah I’m fine with any draw or 1 goal win for ATL. I would prefer not to stress. Let’s win tonight and get on track in MLS before the potential clash against Club America.

  2. T.Coolguy says:

    I’d love to see the Union try and clog the center of the park today. Perhaps with just a lone striker up top. There’s every reason to play it safe tonight.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    If I’m reading things correctly, if the Union advance, they’ll host the second leg of the semifinals (they’ll have at least 9 points while the most Portland or America can have are 8 and 7 respectively). A win tonight would help towards hosting the finals with Cruz Azul, Columbus, and Monterrey all currently at 7.

  4. pragmatist says:

    Nice call, Andrew!

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