Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Atlanta United

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union vs. Atlanta United

What: MLS Regular Season

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania

When: Wednesday, August 31st, 7:00 pm

Watch: FS1, FOX Deportes

Whistle: Lukasz Szpala

The Philadelphia Union continue down the home stretch of their 2022 campaign and welcome Atlanta United to Subaru Park on Wednesday evening.

The stakes are high for both sides for different reasons.

For the visitors, their MLS Cup playoff hopes stand upon the edge of a knife.  They currently sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with 33 points.  Yet, they trail seventh place Columbus by just three points.  With just seven games remaining, Atlanta has zero margin for error.

For the home side, their spot in the MLS Cup playoffs has seemed more or less certain since their hot start in the spring.  They’ll have the opportunity to official book their spot in the MLS Cup playoffs for the fifth consecutive year with a win tonight.  (They can also qualify with a draw and various scenarios falling their way on Wednesday night.)

This fixture is always exciting and there should be plenty of buzz around the park leading up to kickoff.

The Union have enjoyed recent success against Atlanta, having gone unbeaten in their last four regular season meetings (2W, 2D).

Scouting Report: Atlanta United

Atlanta kept their playoff hopes alive over the weekend with a 3-2 victory against league bottom dwellers D.C. United, in which they came from behind twice and found the game-winner; all three goals scored on headers.

Other than the necessary three points, the most positive takeaway was the play of Josef Martinez, who scored just two minutes after being subbed on in the 60th minute.

It’s been a trying season thus far for Martinez, with just seven goals on the season (tied for most on the team).  Atlanta fans will be hoping his performance on Sunday is a sign of good things to come, as an in-form Martinez is precisely what they’ll need to make a late season run.

With that said, Atlanta has quality elsewhere that can help propel them forward.

Paired up top with Martinez in United’s 3-5-2 is forward Luiz Araújo.  He has just four goals paired with five assists this year, but he puts in a high work rate for the full 90 minutes.  The Union center backs can expect to be busy with both Araujo and Martinez in this match.

Wingbacks Brooks Lennon (RWB) and Caleb Wiley (LWB) provide width to the United attack, with Lennon notching two assists on Sunday against DC on his way to earning Man of the Match honors.  Lennon missed a significant amount of time earlier this summer after suffering an MCL sprain in late June.  Atlanta struggled without him and his return to the Five Stripes’ starting eleven is a major positive.

In the center of park are midfielders Thiago Almada, Santiago Sosa and Amar Sejdic.

Sosa, who joined the club in 2021 from Argentine side Club Atlético River Plate, battled injuries late last year and into the beginning of 2022, but has begun to round into form, including scoring his first MLS goal two weeks ago against Columbus.  He is a solid holding midfielder and his passing abilities may help breakthrough the Union’s strong midfield pressing.

Andrew Gutman, Alan Franco and Juanjo Purata will serve as Atlanta’s back three.  Purata scored the game-winner in Sunday’s match against DC.

Head coach Gonzalo Pinada’s side has not recorded consecutive wins all season.  A win tonight against the Union would be the most opportune time to break that drought and bolster their playoff chance.

Injury Report: OUT: Ozzie Alonso (ACL), Dylan Castanheira (Achilles), Brad Guzan (Achilles), Miles Robinson (Achilles), Emerson Hyndman (quad), QUESTIONABLE: Matheus Rossetto (ankle)

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

The Union’s scoring outburst continued Saturday with their second consecutive 6-0 victory, this time dismantling the visiting Colorado Rapids and looking dominant while doing so.

It’s been well documented that with that victory, the Union now have the most wins by six or more goals by any team in MLS history (4), with all four of those games coming in their last ten outings.  It is a truly remarkable statistic, especially when considering that Sporting Kansas City, who have the next highest total of three wins by 6+ goals, achieved those victories across the span of 20 years (wins in 1999, 2018, and 2019).

The Union are getting offensive contributions up and down their lineup. However there can be no denying that the attacking trio of Mikael Uhre, Julian Carranza and Danial Gazdag is the primary factor contributing.  The three are truly in simpatico at the moment with their on and off the ball movement, and are deservingly getting mentioned as one of the best attacking trios in MLS.

Supporting the attacking trio up-top are outside midfielders Alejandro Bedoya (RM) and Leon Flach (LM).

At age 34 and serving as the team captain, Bedoya has been constructing one of the best seasons of his long career.  On top of his five goals and five assists, he is the teams unquestioned leader and is a true workhorse.

With the condensed schedule this week, squad rotation by head coach Jim Curtin is a possibility, for which midfielder Jack McGlynn is an option to be added to the starting eleven.  The 19-year-old’s technical skill on the ball and impressive field vision have stood out for the Union this summer.

While “6+ goals in four games” generates the headlines, “zero goals allowed in four games” is equally as impressive.  The Union boast one of the most stout defenses in the league anchored by center backs Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott, both of whom will be in the Best XI discussion at year’s end.

Playing on the outside is LB Kai Wagner and RB Oliver Mbaizo.

Plenty of rumors had been flying in recent weeks about a potential move to Europe for Kai Wagner.  Most notably was the reported interest from Premier League side Leeds United.  At this juncture, though, no deal has materialized and it looks as though Wagner will remain with the Union for the duration of the season, which bodes well for the Union’s Supporters Shield and MLS Cup aspirations.

In net is goalkeeper Andre Blake, who Jim Curtin has been calling for to be considered for league MVP this year.  

Injury Report: None

Matchup to Watch: Martinez/Araujo vs Union center backs

Martinez and Araujo are both smaller forwards, standing at 5’8″ and 5’9″ respectively, but they’re quick and welcome the opportunity to take on defenders 1 v 1.  Glesnes and Elliott have been solid in 1 v 1 situations this year and will need to continue to do so in this match

Player to Watch: Andre Blake

Although a draw on the road against Philly would in no way be detrimental to Atlanta’s play-offs hopes, the full 3 points is what they’ll be aspiring for.  Andre Blake should expect to be busy in this match as Atlanta pushes for a win.

Prediction: Philadelphia United 2 – 1 Atlanta United

9 Comments

  1. I’m guessing that with Flach going the full 90 on Saturday, he’ll be the one on the bench with McGlynn starting tonight.

  2. Philadelphia United doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

  3. Union 3-0 over Atlanta. Gazdag scores in the first half. A defenders scores off a set piece in the second. A late game break down gives Bedoya another.
    .
    I am having trouble thinking of something to say that wouldn’t rile up superstition lovers or Philly sports curse fanatics. Essentially, I think we are witnessing the emergence of something truly special.

  4. Deez Nuggs says:

    I’m going with 6-0. That’s right, ANOTHER ONE. I know that seems impossible — completely implausible — but…. hear me out. I have zero reasoning. I just want to be the one that called it if it happens again.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Sorry, I already called it on a Facebook Post on Sunday. In response to the Union posting, “Just another 6 goal Saturday night win!”, I suggested, “Let’s vary it up with a 6 goal Wednesday night win!”

  5. Okay, I’ll say it.
    .
    I’m still worried about the Union’s ability to come from behind and break down a team with a decent defense that sits in a low block. If they can do that (and they should be able to with the options they have) then that last little bit of sphincter tension I have at the start of all games will lessen up a good bit. I’d like them to do that to prove to me and to themselves that they can beat any team regardless of the situation. They can put a hurtin on any team who flinches first but can they respond when they get hit in the mouth first?

    • Andy Muenz says:

      It’s a small sample size, but of the 7 games they’ve given up the first goal, they won 2 and drew 2 so it’s not a horrible record. Of course, the fact that they’ve scored first in 19 games (and only trailed in one game after scoring first) means that they don’t get to demonstrate the come from behind ability very often.

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