Atlanta United is more than one player. When Josef Martinez was injured, players stepped up and the Five Stripes got results to set up the 11 game unbeaten run they currently enjoy. Still, with Miguel Almiron injured, the team will have to find a way to keep its unrelenting attack going forward and the Peachtree Press as airtight as it has been.
Without a doubt Atlanta United should beat the Philadelphia Union. The Five Stripes carve apart their opponents’ midfields, score goals at will, and showed they can manage a game, while pushing forward relentlessly, against Montreal. The Union, on the other hand, are missing a few pieces and have a roster full of players half of whom I can’t pick a best 11 from. A team with 15 players that could all arguably start is probably not very good. Still, they do have C.J. Sapong and did jump to a 2-0 lead against United when these teams last met.
Anyway, here’s what to watch for...
The Gang Makes Atlanta United Fans Go Quiet
The Philadelphia Union largely frustrated the Atlanta attack when United traveled to the outskirts of the City of Brotherly Love in August after losing to D.C. United. They managed to score early and even played well enough to win after going down a man. Still, Philly lost a late lead in that game and the Five Stripes stole a point at the death. As the season winds down, the Union are starting to look more solid defensively but still lack creativity or much else aside from CONCACAF brute force in attack. Their main scoring threats are C.J. Sapong and Chris Pontius, a player I constantly confuse with Andrew Wenger, and will rely on Atlanta to make mistakes to get a result in this game.
In their last match against Chicago, the Fire displayed that without Bastian Schweinstiger they have forgotten how to pass the ball on the ground. Give Philly credit, they sought to breakup the Fire forays forward and did so effectively. As a result, the Fire had to rely on long balls to try and get the attack going and mostly failed though they managed to get one goal in their 3-1 loss to the Union.
While the result was good for the Union, apparently Jim Curtin thought that beating a team that had four losses in the seven games leading up to the match meant that he is a soccer mastermind who has unlocked the secret to Atlanta United.
Curtin: "There's a chance now to go to Atlanta, on turf, in a hostile environment, w/ 50-70k fans screaming at ya, & making them go quiet."— Brotherly Game (@BrotherlyGame) September 24, 2017
Perhaps this is post game exuberance after a solid win, but Curtin’s team blew a 2-0 lead to Atlanta less than a month ago and is treating a win against a fading team as evidence that the Union can snap Atlanta United’s 11 game unbeaten streak, which includes being undefeated at their new stadium and only allowing three goals in the last five games. Jim, you beat the Chicago Fire, not Barcelona.
Will Atlanta United remember to defend this time?
In the first game against Philly, the team took advantage of Atlanta United failing to mark players on set pieces. The Union are a big physical team that isn’t very good. Atlanta has had problems with teams like this time and again all season from Vancouver (a team that has vastly improved since meeting with Atlanta back in June) to Philly to DC United.
Even in the fortress that Mercedes Benz Stadium is turning into, the Five Stripes gave up three goals to Orlando including two thanks to Anton Walkes failing to mark his man. One good thing that United has going for it is that the Union rely on pushing the fullbacks up the field and pumping crosses into the box. This could leave them exposed on the ginormous field that United now calls home and lead to a lot of chances in transition.
How will the team respond without Miggy?
Aside from being in Atlanta, the game will be different than the one played at Talen Energy Stadium for two other reasons. One is that Carlos Carmona was suspended in that game and will be back patrolling central midfield, or as it was known on Sunday the Montreal Impact attack graveyard. Carmona has been discussed in the past and as important as Almiron is for setting up goals, Carlos is just as important for solidifying the defense when the team loses possession.
Still, Atlanta will not be full strength in this game due to the injury to Miguel Almiron. This is obviously a huge loss for the Five Stripes. He’s the one that pulls all the strings and does everything else from winning the ball and pushing up the field in transition to leading attacks in possession. Aside from what the attack could look like, United will need to be resilient mentally with Miggy sidelined. The team showed that it is capable of winning, even dominating, without their his brilliance, but the Five Stripes will need to keep that confidence and form up against Philly to have a chance at taking three points on Wednesday night.