Atlanta United returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to host the Eastern Conference leaders, Philadelphia Union. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 17.
It doesn’t feel that long ago when we were previewing the previous matchup between these two teams. Atlanta United and Philadelphia Union squared off just over two weeks ago on August 31. The 5-Stripes traveled to Subaru Park and kept up with the Eastern Conference leaders for most of the first half, but a late goal in first-half stoppage-time gave the home side momentum and Philadelphia Union won the contest 4-1.
Not a whole lot has changed in that time for Philadelphia Union. The club has control of the Eastern Conference, already solidifying their bid to the MLS Cup Playoffs. Meanwhile, Atlanta United has gained some belief in the short time since the last meeting. The 5-Stripes, coming off back-to-back wins, now sit just two points off the playoff line.
“I think tomorrow it’s going to be a 90-minute full group effort, and we just have to go out there with our heads up and fully confident and knowing that we can still achieve the things we want to achieve,” midfielder Amar Sejdić said on Friday.
Philadelphia Union, Supporters Shield Contenders
Philadelphia Union sits atop the Eastern Conference table with an 18-4-9 record and an MLS-best 63 points, which puts the club as the leader in the Supporters Shield race. Philadelphia Union has also already qualified for a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
The visitors have been on a run lately, winning five consecutive matches in MLS play. Last time out, they beat Orlando City 5-1. They’ve been largely successful on the offensive side of the ball, scoring more goals in the past five games (23) than they’ve conceded all season (22) and leading the league in goal differential (+46).
Philadelphia may have consecutive wins against Atlanta United in the series history. However, one thing stands in Atlanta’s favor against the first-place team in the Eastern Conference: Philadelphia Union has never won an MLS match in Atlanta.
"Understanding we’re facing a very good opponent, understanding the last two games, we’ve been facing good players, good opponents, good coaches, but the main focus is about us,” Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. “It’s not about them. It’s about us. It’s about us fighting, grinding, solving pressure in the moments we need to absorb pressure, playing good football when we need to play good football.”
Two Matchups In A Short Span
Atlanta United and Philadelphia Union have met 10 times in MLS play. Atlanta has a slight edge in the series with a 4-3-3 all-time record. Although the teams are in the same conference and therefore meet twice in the regular season, it took all the way into nearly September for the first matchup. Now, the sides face off again no more than three weeks from that first meeting.
The last time the clubs met was on August 31 on the banks of the Delaware River. Atlanta United conceded an early goal to Philadelphia Union but quickly answered with a goal off the head of fullback Andrew Gutman. It looked like the visitors might go toe-to-toe with the conference leaders until a first-half conference goal dissolved Atlanta’s momentum and they fell 4-1.
Pineda hopes that the first matchup gives Atlanta United confidence this time around, knowing that they can score goals against Philadelphia. He says being a bit more clinical can help the home side keep pace with the conference leaders.
"The way they [Philadelphia] score goals is a little bit chaotic,” Pineda said. “It’s long balls, second balls, committing a lot of numbers, a lot of energy, a lot of runs from second lines. So, we need to be alert to those moments of quick transitions, quick moments of reactions, and that’s where they are very good, they’re very good in their reactions towards every play. So they are always alert in every single minute of the game. If we match that level of attention, I think we’re going to be okay.”
Atlanta United Remains Alive
Atlanta United is currently in ninth place in the Eastern Conference table with 39 points and a 10-12-9 record. Entering Saturday’s matchup, Atlanta is within striking distance of the playoff line, sitting just two points behind seventh-place Columbus Crew.
The 1-0 win over Orlando City on Wednesday was massive for Atlanta United’s playoff hopes. The three points pushed Atlanta United further up the Eastern Conference table, momentarily even with Inter Miami CF in terms of points in the table (39). Now, the team will look to continue that effort against the best team in the East.
“I think it’s a good time to keep the confidence going forward and finish out the season strong and hopefully earn a playoff spot,” Sejdić said.
Accurate Shooting Percentage
Players To Watch
Andrew Gutman – Gutman has come through for the 5-Stripes since returning from a quad injury earlier this summer. The fullback had the lone goal for Atlanta United in the last meeting between the two sides, scoring on a diving header to equalize the match in the first half. He enters Saturday’s matchup after earning MLS Team of the Week honors. Gutman was the wall for the 1-2 combination with Thiago Almada that led to the game-winning goal against Orlando City SC.
Dániel Gazdag – The senior international from Hungary has continued his steady production for Philadelphia. Gazdag scored a goal in the last meeting between Philadelphia Union and Atlanta United, finishing off a loose ball in the box. He’s also scored in each of the Union’s two matches since then. That brings his total on the season to 19, third-best in MLS behind Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar and Austin FC’s Sebastian Driussi.
- We're celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday. ¡Traigan la energia y vamos Atlanta!
- Atlanta United will be wearing be the BLVCK kit.