Atlanta United returns to the pitch on Wednesday for a critical match at Philadelphia Union as the race for a top-four finish in the Eastern Conference intensifies. The 5-Stripes are coming into the match sitting in sixth place in the standings, but only three points behind third place. Philadelphia sits in fourth place, just two points ahead of Atlanta following a draw this past weekend. Both sides are battling for one of the top-four spots in the league that would ensure home-field advantage in the Round One series of the playoffs. With only three matches left in the regular season, every point matters down the stretch. Let’s take a closer look at the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot against Philadelphia Union.
Impose your style of play and don’t back down from physicality
Whenever Atlanta and Philadelphia have met in recent years, the matches have mostly come down to a couple of key areas. Which team can impose their style of play on the other team and which team handles the physicality and intensity of the match the best? The 5-Stripes are seeking their first win at Philadelphia since 2018 when they travel there on Wednesday.
This season, Atlanta is near the top in many attacking categories like goals (61, T-3rd), Shots on Goal (156, 7th) or Possession (56.4, 2nd). Since the Leagues Cup break, Atlanta has done a much better job of finding the right spaces and opportunities to attack opponents quickly and utilize their speed down the flanks. Philadelphia is a team that loves to play with high intensity and press opponents all over the field, especially at home. One of the keys for Atlanta will be to match that intensity and find the right opportunities to play through the press and exploit the spaces in behind with quick transitions. If they can continue to create goal scoring opportunities, they will have a good chance to bring home three points.
Don’t allow Gazdag the space to get forwards involved
In Philadelphia’s diamond midfield shape, Daniel Gazdag plays in the most attacking role as the No. 10 in behind the two strikers. The Hungarian international is one of the best attacking midfielders in the league over the past two seasons. He has scored 35 goals and added 20 assists since the start of last season. He can create for his teammates or finish himself. Gazdag is also the league’s best penalty kick taker this season, going 11-for-11 so far on PKs. One of the players he is looking to get involved is Julian Carranza, who has continued his breakout form from last season. The forward has 12 goals and five assists on the campaign and is a tireless worker leading Philadelphia’s press from the front. Atlanta’s defense will need to be switched on at all times, as the Union play one of the most direct styles and don’t need a lot of possession to create scoring opportunities. Keeping Gazdag and Carranza away from dangerous scoring opportunities will be key on Wednesday.
Continue to get new players involved
Since league play resumed after Leagues Cup, Atlanta has a 4-1-2 (W-L-T) record and is one of the hottest teams in the league. A big portion of that success has come from the new summer signings who have made an instant impact. Xande Silva, Saba Lobjanidze and Tristan Muyumba all started in the last match against Montreal and delivered top performances. Thiago Almada has played at an MVP-caliber level for nearly the entire season, while striker Giorgos Giakoumakis is chasing the Golden Boot. Atlanta needs to continue to find the attacking quartet and allow them to create dangerous scoring opportunities. Almada has created the most big chances in MLS (21), while the team has been converting those big chances at a 55.4% clip, which is the third-highest mark in the league. Taking advantage of scoring opportunities will be key against the Union on Wednesday night.
Fans can tune in nationally on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app on Wednesday night at 7:30pm ET when the action kicks off at Subaru Park in Philadelphia. To hear the action on radio, tune into Sports Radio 92.9 The Game or La Mejor – AM 1600 (Spanish).