Wednesday was bad. Really bad. I’m not going to even mention the scoreline from that day nor the team that Atlanta United were involved with because said team isn’t even in the MLS Cup playoff race and it’s the last time Atlanta will face them again (fortunately).
Let’s all turn the page and look ahead to later on, shall we? Atlanta took the trip up I-95 from Washington to the Philadelphia area on Thursday, where they set up camp for a tilt against the Union at 7 p.m. tonight at Talen Energy Stadium on the shores of the Delaware River overlooking New Jersey. The Union can’t really make up their mind whether they want to be a postseason team or not, but a victory over Atlanta would be a a huge boost to those hopes and get them closer to hopping on the other side of the red line. Here’s what to watch for in either team’s final match before the FIFA-mandated international break:
Jekyll and Hyde
I mentioned that Jim Curtin’s side quite can’t decide what they want to be. One week, they’re pouring in goals and winning matches 3-0. The next, they’re getting their heads kicked in by a superior opponent and giving up three. The frustrating part for Philly has to be those situations where they’ve dropped points where they should have picked them up, namely at San Jose a week ago where Chris Wondolowski converted a penalty at the death to deny the Union all three points. They followed it up by getting trampled by Toronto FC, but in all fairness, it was always going to be tough going into BMO Field against the possible Supporters’ Shield winners. I’d expect a more focused Union team this evening set on wiping out a bad loss up North and out to get themselves in the chase.
What will we see from CJ Sapong?
Where D.C. (oops) didn’t have a talented striker on their roster, Philadelphia have good talent up front in Sapong. More often than not, though, he’s been a streaky scorer - he’s scoreless in his last three matches, and when you take away his hat trick against the Red Bulls on May 6, he only has nine goals in twenty-five appearances. Philadelphia would obviously prefer a little more production from their forward, but United’s back line can’t afford to allow him opportunities to get unmarked in the attack.
Can Atlanta bounce back?
I won’t call this a “must-win” for Atlanta, but they certainly want to go into the break having taken advantage of at least one game in hand. I feel Philly have more to gain from a result than Atlanta do at this juncture, but that still doesn’t mean that it’s not important for Atlanta. On top of that, bear in mind that Atlanta have only scored four goals in their last four matches. If they want to get back on the winning side and build positive momentum before fifteen days off, tonight may be as good a night as any to do it.