Atlanta United (10-8-5) head straight back into league action this weekend to face the Philadelphia Union (8-12-6) in the first ever meeting between the two Eastern Conference teams. The Union are in a rut with just one win in their past five league matches, but they still pose plenty of threat, particularly inside their on walls. Here’s what Atlanta United fans can expect from their next opponent:
Sapong the Scorer
The Philadelphia Union have one of the most prolific strikers in MLS this year leading their attacking line. C.J. Sapong has 12 goals this year – more than double the next-highest total on the Philadelphia roster – as well as four assists to go along with it. And as Sapong goes, so does Philly: The Union haven’t lost a single game in which he’s scored since April. He’s a clinical finisher, with his 12 goals coming on just 46 shots and his 26% shot conversion rate near the top of the league. He’s a physical, hard-working target man that is enjoying the best season of his career so far. Atlanta will have to focus on cutting off the supply to the Union’s primary goal scorer.
Days after facing shot-stopper Bill Hamid in Washington, D.C., Atlanta United’s strikers will face another tough challenge in the Philadelphia net. 26-year-old Andre Blake has developed into one of the premier goalkeepers in Major League Soccer, ranking in the upper tier in save percentage, goals allowed per game and clean sheets. That culminated in a breakout performance for Jamaica at this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, where he won the Golden Glove as best goalkeeper in the tournament. The good news for Atlanta United fans: the last Gold Cup Golden Glove winner will be playing in the Atlanta United goal (Brad Guzan).
Rookie in the back
While casual fans may recognize U.S. international Alejandro Bedoya in the Union midfield, much of the buzz in Philadelphia right now is surrounding defender Jack Elliott. The 77th overall pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft has become a surprise contender for Rookie of the Year, starting in Philadelphia’s last 22 games in the center of their defense and ranking fifth in MLS in blocks so far this season. Despite that, Philly have conceded eight goals in their last three games. Atlanta United will be hoping to take advantage as they look to get back to their free-scoring ways.
Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 7:00 p.m. EST, and fans who couldn’t make the trip north can tune in on Fox Sports Southeast or FOX Sports Go. Click here to view all the options to follow the game.