Atlanta United got the job done against DC United, though it wasn’t quite as straightforward as we’d have liked. The three points and a return to form from Josef Martinez are what matters, though, and there are signs of more concrete improvement over the past 180 minutes. But if what we saw against Columbus and DC were steps in the right direction, it's going to take leaps and bounds for that momentum to continue this week with a pair of grueling road trips. Just, uh, take a look at this.
As you may expect by those scores, the Union sits atop the Eastern Conference with a 5-point lead and are only one win behind Supporters Shield-leading LAFC. It has a league-wide 2nd best attack (57 goals), the best backline (20 conceded), and a whopping +37 goal differential. That’s not even to mention the four victories by six goals or more the Union has notched in just the last ten games. Winter DP striker signings Julian Carranza (13 goals, 5 assists) and Mikael Uhre (9g, 2a) have played a big role in that, along with attacking midfielder Daniel Gazdag (16g, 4a), but it’s been 19-year-old midfielder Jack McGlynn who’s really unleashed Philadelphia’s attack and Gazdag especially with his technical skills in the center of the park. Contrary to the (very successful) turnover in attack, the Union’s spine remains the same, with Alejandro Bedoya, everyone’s favorite Jose Martinez, and Andre Blake keeping things under control at the other end. In short, this is a team with very few, if any, weaknesses, well versed in its style of play (despite the goals, this is still very much a Jim Curtin side - Philly has the second-fewest passes and second lowest passing accuracy in MLS) and seems to hitting form at the perfect time.
The good news is that Atlanta is just three points out of sixth and has a game in hand on a few of the teams directly above it. The bad news is that the game in hand is this one. Any points from a trip to Philadelphia this season would usually be a massive bonus, but at this point of the season, they might be necessary, especially with another away game on the weekend at Portland. If it’s any relief, Atlanta is undefeated in its last three road games (all draws) and could easily have come away with a win at least once, but the Union is a different monster than any Atlanta has faced so far.
Predicted Starting XIs
McBlunder’s Prediction: Philadelphia Union 2-2 Atlanta United
Yes, this is a bit of a stretch. But hey, Josef Martinez might be at least a little back and maybe Philadelphia comes into this one overconfident and rotate a bit. Crazier things have happened.