Scorching hot in their new home, Atlanta United (14-8-7) are riding five matches unbeaten while scoring 19 goals since debuting in Mercedes-Benz Stadium just weeks ago. The expansion side will hope to continue their impressive form as they host the Philadelphia Union (9-12-9) on Wednesday night. Neither side has lost a match since their last meeting on August 26th in Philadelphia that ended in a dramatic draw after a stoppage-time Atlanta equalizer. This rematch will be one you won’t want to miss.
Tickets are still available here, but if you can’t make it to the stadium, the match is set to kick off Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on FOX Sports South and streamed live via FOX Sports GO.
Atlanta United (14-8-7)
The Five Stripes have turned the city of Atlanta into a fortress for the home side. After losing two of their first three MLS home games, Atlanta is now unbeaten in their last eleven, outscoring the opposition 35-9 over that time. The red black and gold have only lost one match in their last thirteen regular season matches, with their most recent win over the Montreal Impact on Sunday lifting them to third place in the Eastern Conference. With another victory on Wednesday night, the expansion side would officially clinch an MLS Cup Playoff berth.
Head coach Tata Martino and company have established an attacking, fast-paced identity for the league newcomers, who have now tallied a total of 63 goals through 29 matches. Only Toronto, who have two more matches under their belt, have scored more with 67.
Continuing to lead the electric attack is Atlanta United’s South American contingent, with their red-hot Venezuelan international Josef Martinez leading the team with 17 goals – scoring eight of those in the last two weeks and notching three hat-tricks this season. The 24-year-old is averaging a goal every 70 minutes, the best rate in league history (min. three goals) and currently lies just three goals behind the MLS Golden Boot leader in Portland’s Diego Valeri.
Next to Martinez, constantly causing trouble along the flanks are Argentine wingers Tito Villalba and Yamil Asad who have tallied a combined 18 goals and 21 assists. Normally at the helm of the attack is one of the league’s top playmakers in Miguel Almirón, but Atlanta will have to make-do without their maestro after the club announced the Paraguyan international will miss up to three weeks with a hamstring injury suffered in the last match against Montreal. This isn’t the first time the club has lost a key player to the sidelines this season, and the players were confident after Sunday’s match they could step up again to fill Almirón’s shoes.
Meanwhile, the expansion side will hope to continue their recent impressive performances on the defensive side of the ball. With only 35 goals conceded this season, Atlanta United ranks third in the league, and their +28 goal differential ranks second. Led by U.S. international goalkeeper Brad Guzan and team captain Michael Parkhurst, Atlanta will look to keep up the solid defensive form as they hope to remain unbeaten in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Philadelphia Union (9-12-9)
Philadelphia managed to secure the last spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs last season with a 6th-place finish in the Eastern Conference, and they look like they may be fighting for the same spot again in 2017. Currently in 9th, the Union are six points below the playoff line so every point is crucial in this final stretch of matches, especially against inter-conference competition.
C.J. Sapong is the danger man up front, with the center forward tallying a team-high 14 goals this season – one of only 11 MLS players to reach that number so far this year. U.S. international Alejandro Bedoya will join Brazilian playmaker Ilsinho in the center of the park pulling the strings for the attack. And keep an eye on winger Chris Pontius. The American – who has been an important member of the Union attack for years – finally ended his scoring drought with a brace against the Chicago Fire last weekend, and will be looking to build upon that as they mount their final playoff push.
Atlanta’s high-flying attack will face one if its toughest tests for the second time this season with Jamaican International Andre Blake in the opposing goal. Blake has been rock-solid over the past two seasons being named to the 2016 MLS Best XI, winning the Goalkeeper of the Year award and earning the Golden Glove in this summer’s 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Philadelphia is winless in their last ten road matches, and will be looking to break that streak in Atlanta. Wednesday’s match will be one you won’t want to miss as the points on the table are crucial for both sides in the MLS Cup Playoff picture with just a few matches remaining in the regular season.
- FOX Sports South
- FOX Sports GO