There’s not time for Five Stripes to settle on their disappointing road draw in New England Wednesday with another Eastern Conference showdown coming up just this weekend. The Philadelphia Union (5-5-3) are climbing the table while Atlanta United (8-3-2) are trying to get back to their dominant best as they head into a match-packed month. With another packed house expected at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the club’s #17’s will be in full force roaring the team on in an intra-conference matchup.
Ahead of this weekend’s game, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
The Union brought in MLS veteran David Accam on a big money move to the left wing this summer, but their best player in one-on-one situations may be someone already on the roster lining up on the right. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping –– with 11 goals and 8 assists in nearly two and a half seasons so far –– Brazilian right winger Ilsinho is clever on the ball, quick with his dribble, and is a consistent contributor in the Union’s build-up play. The Union have plenty of power and pace all over the field, but that little piece of magic to spark chances often comes from the Brazilian. And getting a man on him isn’t enough, you have to prevent the ball from getting to his foot with his ability to beat a man on the dribble. Just ask the Chicago Fire, who caught the brunt of an Ilsinho moment of quality just this week.
Manhandle the Midfield
Where Philadelphia thrives the most is in the middle of the park, where a formidable core brings equal parts skill and strength. Bosnian international Haris Medunjanin and U.S. Men’s National Team veteran Alejandro Bedoya form the base, with each fully capable of breaking up play along with an elite ability for splitting opposing defenses with quick, incisive passing. With the base set last year, the Union added the capstone to their middle three with Borek Dockal on a Designated Player deal this offseason. With 35 caps for a strong Czech Republic National Team, the 29-year-old has added a piece of European class in his prime to their number 10 role. Union coaches said Dockal has the ability to make his entire team better, and he’s shown that with three goals and six assists in just 12 MLS appearances so far this year. Like it often does, the team that owns the midfield in this matchup will be halfway to securing three points.
Barrage on the Back Line
The Union is on its best run of form so far this year, with three wins and no losses in their last four matches. Much of that is down to the improvement of one of the youngest back lines in Major League Soccer, which has given up just two goals in that span. With a pair of 19-year-olds in Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty growing into a solid center back partnership, the future is bright for the Union defense. But shutting down Atlanta United’s attack is another challenge. The Five Stripes attack will need to mix up their runs to take advantage of an inexperienced defense. Not settling and continuing to create chances will be key as they try to put shots past one of MLS’s elite goalkeepers in the Union’s Andre Blake.
Follow the Match:
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. EST, with the match set to be broadcast on Fox Sports Southeast and streamed on Fox Sports GO. You can listen to the game on the Atlanta United app or through one of our radio partners: 92.9 The Game or, for Spanish-speaking listeners, La Mejor Atlanta. Click here for a full rundown of how to follow along with the game.