Tools to the Match: How Atlanta collects a positive result at league leaders Philadelphia Union

Atlanta United hits the road for two consecutive matches this week. The first of two road tests comes on Wednesday night at Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union. The 5-Stripes are coming off a 3-2 home victory over D.C. United last weekend, while Philadelphia has registered back-to-back 6-0 victories in its last two matches. Sunday’s victory moved Atlanta United up to 11th in the standings and within three points of the playoff line. With seven matches remaining, every match is critical down the stretch. Let’s take a look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Philadelphia Union.

Control tempo of the match and be efficient in front of goal

Historically, Atlanta United has had success against the Union. The 5-Stripes lead the all-time series 4-2-3 (W-L-T) in MLS regular season and postseason action. In what is set to be another clash of playing styles, Atlanta needs to do a good job of controlling the tempo of the match through its possession and passing accuracy. Atlanta ranks second in MLS in terms of possession at 57.5%, while Philadelphia ranks 26th at 43.2% coming into Wednesday.

The 5-Stripes also need to be efficient in front of goal on Wednesday night. The Union feature the league’s best defense with only 20 goals allowed, so good quality chances to score could be few and far between. Atlanta needs to be ruthless in front of net to score and put pressure on Philadelphia. When scoring first, Atlanta is 7-2-4 (W-L-T) this season, while last Sunday’s match vs. D.C. United featured the team’s first win of the season after conceding the first goal.

Slow down Philadelphia’s multi-faceted attack

The Union have been a consistent contender in the Eastern Conference over the last several seasons. After winning the Supporters’ Shield in 2020, they are back in the hunt for the shield this season. Philadelphia is also in excellent scoring form, after securing their second consecutive 6-0 win this past weekend. In the last four matches, the Union have scored 16 goals (best in MLS) while only conceding two goals (tied for first in MLS).

They feature an attacking trio that has scored 38 goals combined, led by Daniel Gazdag’s 16 goals and eight assists. Forward Julian Carranza, who joined from Inter Miami CF before this season, has added 13 goals and seven assists. Defensively, Philadelphia has only conceded 20 goals on the season and is led by goalkeeper Andre Blake who ranks second in the league with 12 clean sheets. Atlanta’s defense will need to be focused for the entire 90 minutes to contain Philadelphia’s lethal attack.

Be alert in transition moments; use set pieces to your advantage

Atlanta United’s defense will need to be alert in transition moments against Philadelphia on Wednesday. The Union feature a +37 goal differential, despite ranking near the bottom in possession. They press in a similar fashion to the New York Red Bulls and cause havoc for opposing teams in the buildup. The 5-Stripes will need to be accurate with their passing out of the back and break Philadelphia’s pressure.

Attacking set pieces have also been a strength for Atlanta in the last few matches. They created several opportunities and scored against Columbus, while the match against D.C. United also

saw the 5-Stripes score from set pieces. Against a tough Philadelphia defense, Atlanta needs to take advantage of every attacking set piece opportunity that it can create.

Fans can tune-in nationally on FS1 on Wednesday night as Atlanta United travels to face Philadelphia Union at 7:00 p.m. ET. Click here to learn all the ways to watch, listen and live stream Wednesday's match.