Atlanta United are in the City of Brotherly Love to face Eastern Conference opponents Philadelphia Union for the first time ever in the clubs’ history. Atlanta (10-8-5) and Philadelphia (8-12-6) are both looking to get back to winning ways after disappointing midweek losses.
Ahead of Saturday’s clash, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by Home Depot:
1) Stop Sapong
To stop Philadelphia’s offense, Atlanta must start by shutting down forward C.J. Sapong. The Virginia-born former MLS Rookie of the Year is on track to have his best year yet as a pro with 12 goals and 4 assists already, nearly half of all of Philadelphia’s 34 goals this year. Sapong has more than double the goals of the next-highest scorer on his team, and Philly hasn’t lost a single game in which he’s scored since early April. A clever runner in the box, Sapong has a knack for turning chances into goals with clinical finishing, but he also works hard in the build-up, keeping possession and getting the Union’s midfield involved in the attack. Isolating Sapong would go a long way to slowing down Philadelphia’s front line.
2) Score First
It’s not uncommon for a team to struggle after they concede the first goal, but Philadelphia has taken that to an extreme. Philadelphia has only won once this season when they’ve fallen behind, and have lost 10 times in the same situation. When leading at the half, on the other hand, Union haven’t lost this season, with six wins and a draw. Meanwhile, Atlanta are also unbeaten this season when leading at halftime. Both teams know how to protect a lead, so it could be crucial to avoid falling behind early in this game.
3) Find Space for Almirón
In Philadelphia’s midweek loss, they put an extra focus on Toronto’s star forward Sebastian Giovinco. Union coach Jim Curtin deployed U.S. international Alejandro Bedoya in a midfield destroyer role, individually tracking and man-marking Giovinco throughout the match. It’s a tactic that some teams have tried against Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almirón, and it could be used again this weekend. Atlanta is at its best when Almirón finds a pocket of room to operate, moving momentum toward the opposing goal, getting defenders on their heels and giving Almirón space to find the killer pass to the clinical forward options. The red, black and gold will need to unearth a way to find Miguel room to work if they want to come out of Philadelphia with a win.
How to Follow
You can catch all the action between Atlanta United and the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night starting at 7:00 p.m. EST on FOX Sports Southeast or via FOX Sports GO.