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Prekrap: Atlanta United at Philadelphia Union

Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past

MLS: Portland Timbers at Atlanta United FC Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

For the third time this year, Atlanta took a lead late into a game and ended up dropping points. FC Dallas scored two improbable goals after late defensive subs failed to defend. The result was turning a win into a draw into a loss. Along with the games against NYCFC and the New England Revolution, the Five Stripes have now dropped seven points despite leading in games.

The result in Dallas has opened up the Supporters’ Shield race. Atlanta sits in the leading position, but with 19 games played and 37 points, the team has the most games played among their three closest competitors who are within five points of the top.

Luckily, Atlanta now begins a portion of their schedule where they will face nine teams currently out of the playoffs in 11 games. The trick will be taking the maximum points out of those matches. Atlanta will get its first chance at doing just that on Saturday in Philadelphia.

Nobody owes nobody nothing,’ you owe yourself

Philadelphia got off to a really bad start to the season. They had trouble scoring and defending and winning or doing anything right. As we mentioned before the last time these teams played, some of that was perhaps bad luck as their xG stat indicated. That has not really caught up with the team as they now have 21 goals scored on an xG of 26.6.

While the stats may not be on Philly’s side, they will certainly not be lacking in motivation for the match. The last time these teams played, the Union managed to hang with Atlanta fairly well until the 19th minute when Alejandro Bedoya was accidentally awarded a second yellow card and Haris Medunjanin lost his marbles. From there keeper Andre Blake managed to make it look like the Union were holding off Atlanta until the second half. His standout performance in goal kept the Union in the game to the point that they pulled a goal back to seemingly have a chance to take a point off of Atlanta.

As far as how the Union may approach this game, it’s hard to say. One option is that the team tries to see if they can regain the form they had before red cards were shown in the last match and play Atlanta in an open game. The other is that the Union do what they did against the team the last time they played in Philly and clog up the midfield and play a stout defensive match. While either strategy may be effective, as Atlanta showed last season at Mercedes Benz-Stadium, when the can figure out the Union, Philly really has no chance.

It ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward

The result Wednesday night was frustrating but inevitable seeming. As Tata Martino began making subs, it seemed like Dallas just got stronger with every attack against a defense that seemed disjointed and disorganized with the changes at the end of the match.

While it is disappointing, FC Dallas is a good opponent and can punish teams that make mistakes against them. That won’t exactly be the case against Philly. The team has struggled to find consistent form in 2018 and in the three league games since the Union lost 3-1 to Atlanta in June, they lost to an awful Toronto team 2-0, crushed a somehow good Vancouver Whitecaps side, and got demolished by LAFC 4-1.

So far this year, Atlanta has had success against these types of teams. At this point in the season the Five Stripes have beaten every team they’ve played that are outside of the playoff picture. That includes away wins in Chicago and Orlando. With the recent result, a win would be timely as Atlanta risks falling behind in the Supporters’ Shield race as they do not have games in hand with the others competing for the title.

If Philly elects to play an open game, Atlanta should be able to get in behind their defense - the challenge will be beating Andre Blake when they get chances on goal.