Atlanta United (14-8-7) will be looking to stretch their home unbeaten streak to twelve matches Wednesday as the Philadelphia Union (9-12-9) visit Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s a match with major playoff implications: Atlanta would clinch a post-season berth with a win and Philadelphia could take a big step toward sneaking above the red line with a much-needed road victory.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s matchup, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by Home Depot:
1) Fire First
In the reverse fixture in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, the Union bulged the net first and gained the momentum early, scoring a second soon after. While Atlanta fought back from 2-0 down and equalized in the final minutes, they spent the majority of the match on the back foot trying to claw their way back in a hostile environment. Atlanta have won and kept a clean sheet every time they’ve recorded the first goal in Mercedes-Benz Stadium so far. Getting on the board early and energizing the Atlanta faithful will go a long way in helping Atlanta remain unbeaten at their new home.
2) Find the Feet of #7
In their last matchup, Philadelphia managed to keep Atlanta’s fearless forward up front, Josef Martinez, off the score sheet. However, the Venezuelan international is back on a hot streak and arguably the most in-form striker in the league with eight goals in his last five matches. In the air, off the dribble, or in a foot race, the dynamic number seven is lethal in so many ways. There’s a reason he’s averaging a goal every 70 minutes, the best rate in the league. He can affect the game without scoring as well, like when he pressured the Union defense into a red card tackle in Philadelphia that changed the tide of the game. Whether it’s finding the space or dragging defenders with him to open up lanes for his teammates, he will be a handful for a Philadelphia defense that has struggled on the road.
3) Answering Almirón’s Absence
Despite their red-hot form, Atlanta United suffered a tough personnel blow in their last outing against Montreal Sunday. Paraguayan playmaker Miguel Almirón was subbed off early for a hamstring injury that is expected to keep him sidelined for a minimum of three weeks. But Atlanta have displayed their resilience this season time and time again, and on Sunday it was Julian Gressel who stepped into the creative midfield role to keep the engine of the expansion side’s midfield running. There’s no telling who will fill Almirón’s shoes Wednesday night, but the players and coaches are confident the team will fill the void and continue their strong run of form as they push for a playoff spot.
How to follow
Tickets to the match are still available and can be purchased here. If you can’t attend, you can catch all the action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. EST, with the match broadcast on FOX Sports South or via Fox Sports GO. Click here for all details on how to follow the match.