Following the international break, Atlanta United is back in action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The 5-Stripes host Philadelphia Union in what will be the third meeting between the two sides this year after they faced off in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (SCCL) earlier this year. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
Opportunity to Shine
Sunday’s match against the Union presents an opportunity for several players in Atlanta United’s squad to step up and shine on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium stage in front of a rowdy and proud crowd. Josef Martinez (International Duty) and Emerson Hyndman (torn ACL) will not be available for Sunday’s match, giving an opportunity for other players on Atlanta United’s roster to shine. Franco Ibarra has featured in all seven matches under Gabriel Heinze this season. The midfielder joined the 5-Stripes from Argentina and could be one of the players tasked with filling the midfield void left by Hyndman’s injury.
Up top, Atlanta has some different options to choose from. Cubo Torres is a veteran striker who has had success in MLS. He has 37 regular season goals in his MLS career. Another option could be homegrown Jackson Conway, who scored in his Atlanta United debut last season against Club America. Head Coach Gabriel Heinze will call on the depth of his squad to secure all three points on Sunday.
Find a way past Philadelphia’s diamond system
The Philadelphia Union are one of the few teams in MLS that play in a 4-4-2 diamond formation. Head Coach Jim Curtin has found success in that system and has the players to execute it at a high level. Offseason signing Leon Flach has been a revelation. He’s started seven of eight matches this season. The Union attack runs through Kacper Przybylko, who leads the squad with three goals scored in MLS play in 2021. Defensively, Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes have played every minute of every match to give the Union a solid center back pairing.
Historically, Atlanta has played Philadelphia extremely well at home with a 3-0-1 record in MLS games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They have outscored the Union 9-2 in those matches.
Take the chances you create
Atlanta United’s attack has remained consistent in creating opportunities. The team maintained its streak of creating at least seven chances in every MLS match this season after creating eight against Nashville last time out. One of the main factors in creating those consistent opportunities has been keeping possession. Atlanta leads MLS with 60.9% possession coming out of the international break.
The 5-Stripes created several quality scoring chances in the two legs against Philadelphia in SCCL play earlier this year. Creating similar types of opportunities will be a key factor in Sunday’s match. If they take advantage of them, especially early in the match, the 5-Stripes will be in prime position to earn a big victory at home.
Kickoff is set for 2:00 p.m. ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when Atlanta United hosts Philadelphia Union. Fans can tune in for the national broadcast on ESPN and listen on radio on Sports Radio 92-9 The Game to follow the action.