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Prekrap: Atlanta United vs. Philadelphia Union

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Chances?

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New England Revolution Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United went on the ro

Sorry, let’s try that again.

Atlanta United traveled to New Engla

Didn’t quite get there...

The Atlanta United Football Club played against the Revo

UGH.

This is so frustrating.

Give me a moment.

NOW I UNDERSTAND WHAT IT MUST FEEL LIKE FOR ATLANTA UNITED TO NOT BE ABLE TO FINISH ANYTHING.

Well, I got that out of my system.

Atlanta United was finishing a chance on a three on one, a two on one, and a one on one (and a clumsy challenge from Kevin Kratz) away from getting yet another road win this year. They just couldn’t quite get the ball to go in the net twice though. It seems like while the team definitely had chances and Matt Turner had the game of his life, there was also an element of luck to the 1-1 draw on Wednesday night for the home team. But, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Anyway, onto the Prekrap...

Meet the Philadelphia Union, now featuring defense

Atlanta’s opponent in the game will be the Philadelphia Union. They don’t have much of a playing style to speak of as far as trying to press, or hold possession, or counter, or play a World Cup champion as sweeper or anything, but they do have a good backline now. Philly is unbeaten in their last four games with a draw and three wins. The team managed to not be subject to any wacky VAR calls and earned a 0-0 result in Harrison, New Jersey against the mighty New York Red Bulls in that time.

Over that stretch, they have allowed just two goals, having let in 14 in their first nine matches. This is largely thanks to Jim Curtain realizing that he could probably do whatever he wanted and not get fired after finishing 8th last year and playing the kidz. The backline features four, count em’, four, American starters. Raymon Gaddis, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty, and Keegan Rosenberry have found chemistry and are doing an admirable job of keeping the ball out of the net for Andre Blake of Jamaica. All the more impressive is that McKenzie and Trusty are both teenagers and are regularly starting in a key role on the team.

While they can protec, can Philly attac? Well.. not really, but math says they do actually. If Atlanta was unlucky in their game in New England, Philly has been unlucky in their games - full stop - all of them. Prior to the game against Chicago, Philly was sitting on 12 goals scored with an xG of 18 after 12 matches played. That’s really unlucky and things seem to be turning around as the Union drubbed the Fire 3-1 on Wednesday night and a 4-1 win against RSL two weeks ago.

Aside from the defense, Atlanta will need to look for Philly to try to work the ball through midfield with holding midfielder and occasional deep lying playmaker Haris Medunjanin getting the ball to David Accam, new Designated Player Borek Dockal, and CJ Sapong. Ilshino or 18 year-old Anthony Fontana may also figure in the line up. Philly may actually try to play Atlanta in an open match in this game and if they do, their attackers will need to be able to keep up with the Five Stripes assuming the home team finishes their chances.

FINISH. YOUR. CHANCES.

For Atlanta United this game should be fairly simple. Finish your chances. Ball + Net = Profit. It’s not hard. Philly might have a good defense but a couple of 18 year-old American center backs shouldn’t somehow have the secret formula to stopping Atlanta United from scoring. The Five Stripes routinely caught the New England Revolution too far forward and found space to break behind their defense the whole... well second half at least. With Medunjanin more attack minded and Alejandro Bedoya more of a shuttler than a defender, Atlanta should be able to break through the Union midfield and again find space behind the backline.

Aside from finishing chances, the Five Stripes need to limit the Union from creating scoring opportunities. Whatever you want to say about the Union this season, they have been unlucky and that is finally changing for the team. Franco Escobar had a sound game and stayed out of range of Brad Guzan’s limbs, with Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez back from his suspension due to yellow cards, Atlanta will have a backline that should be able to contain the Union attack. That said, they need to be weary of how Philly can hurt the defense and not look at their goals scored and draw any conclusions.

This match should be a good test for Atlanta United. Philly is the kind of team that can sneak up on opponents and, as their recent form shows, their place in the table might not reflect their true talent and potential for the season. If Atlanta wants to continue to control their destiny in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, the team will need to start winning games at home once again. Limiting mistakes and finishing chances will be key to getting three points. Not doing so again puts the Five Stripes at risk for things being out of their hands to determine the outcome of the game.