Atlanta United (11-4-4) are looking to bounce back after a disappointing Independence Day defeat, and they have their chance just a few days later as they travel to the Philadelphia Union (6-8-3) for a Saturday night matchup under the lights. The last matchup between the two teams involved two red cards, a hat trick and an Atlanta victory, so Saturday is sure to be another wild one as Philadelphia defends their home.
Ahead of this Saturday night’s game, we broke down the Tools to the Match presented by The Home Depot.
1) Check the Czech
New to the team in 2018 but already their creator-in-chief, Boreck Dockal has been everything they hoped for since bringing him in on loan from Chinese club Henan Jianye. Crafty with the ball, clever with the pass, powerful on the run and confident in the finish, the Czech Republic international spearheads the Union attack with an all-around game from the number 10 position. Thriving in the role just behind striker C.J. Sapong, Dockal has recorded a team-best five goals and six assists including a brace in their win over Vancouver a few weeks ago which earned him the MLS Player of the Week award. The Atlanta United midfield will need to stay tight to Dockal and limit his time on the ball if they are to shut down the Union attack.
2) Attack the Center
Central defense is an area of the field in which many teams elect to go with experience, but In Philadelphia’s case they’ve opted to go with just the opposite. Leading their back line are a pair of teenagers in 19-year-olds Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty, who clocked their first minutes for the first team in the season opener this year. And while they’re technically sound, physical, athletic and clearly trusted by their coaches and respected by their teammates, experience is something you just can’t teach. Atlanta United could take advantage of the youth in the center of the Union back line by forcing mistakes with their high-press style and with Golden Boot leader Josef Martinez always lurking in the final third.
3) Marking Medunjanin
Just as Dockal has been Philadelphia’s playmaker in the center, Haris Medunjanin has been their rock next to him. At age 33, the Bosnian midfielder brings a wealth of experience to the Union, earning 60 caps for his national team and spending the majority of his professional career in Europe. He’s strong, composed, and equally adept on both sides of the ball. His calming presence is key in possession but his physical presence is arguably just as critical for the Union. At 6’ 1”, Medunjanin is a player you don’t want to be fighting in an aerial challenge. And after his sending off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, expect him to have a chip on his shoulder in this one. Whether he’s the catalyst in the Philadelphia attack or forward on the field for set piece, Atlanta United will want to keep eyes on him at all times.
Follow the Match:
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. EST on Saturday night, with the match set to be broadcast on FOX Sports Southeast and streamed on FOX Sports Go. You can listen to the game on the Atlanta United app or through one of our radio partners: 92.9 The Game or, for Spanish-speaking listeners, La Mejor Atlanta. Click here for a full rundown of how to follow along with the game.