Philadelphia Union return home to face off with new boys Atlanta United

CHESTER, PA - MARCH 20: Kelyn Rowe
CHESTER, PA - MARCH 20: Kelyn Rowe /

Following a humiliating showing in Toronto midweek, the Philadelphi Union return to Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday to face Atlanta United. 

The ins and outs:

Philadelphia Union (8-12-6) vs. Atlanta United (10-8-5)

When: Saturday 7:00 p.m. ET – Talen Energy Stadium (Chester, PA)

Where to Watch: The Comcast Network (TCN)

Streaming: MLS Live

PRO Referees: Drew Fischer, (AR1) Phil Briere, (AR2) Gianni Facchini, (AR4) Sorin Stoica, (VAR)Jair Marrufo.

Coaches: Jim Curtin (Philadelphia Union) – Gerardo Martino (Atlanta United)

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Union return home needing points more than ever

With the calendar drawing closer to September, the Philadelphia Union need to pick up their game, and fast. Jim Curtin’s side are winless in their last three matches, going 0-2-1 in that span. After a 2-2 draw in San Jose last weekend, the Union were brushed aside 3-0 by the Eastern Conference leaders Toronto F.C. on Wednesday.

Now, the boys in blue return to Chester this weekend for their first ever meeting with Atlanta United, needing three points to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Atlanta sit five points clear of the Union in seventh place in the East. Tata Martino’s side fell 1-0 midweek against D.C. United thanks to an own goal by Michael Parkhurst.

It was the expansion side’s first loss since June 21st, also on the road against D.C. Surprisingly, Atlanta have fared pretty well in their debut season in MLS. They are the third best road team in the East, posting a record of 4-6-4 so far. Martino has a slew of talent at his disposal, and the Union will need to be wary of that. Hector Villalba leads the team with 10 goals, while Miguel Almiron has eight goals and six assists. Yamil Asad also has eight assists, while rookie Julian Gressel has three goals and six helpers. Josef Martinez is the X-Factor for Atlanta, scoring nine goals already this season.

Possible Lineups/Injury Report:
Goalkeeper Andre Blake is back in-goal for the Union after returning midweek against Toronto. Maurice Edu is questionable for Saturday’s match after featuring for Bethlehem Steel last weekend. Fabian Herbers remains a lengthy absentee from the Union squad, while Oguchi Onyewu, Alejandro Bedoya, and Raymon Gaddis are a yellow card away from a suspension.

Projected Starting Line-up, from right to left: Andre Blake – Fabinho, Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Ellliott, Raymon Gaddis – Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya – Fafa Picault, Ilsinho, Chris Pontius – CJ Sapong

Next: Philadelphia Union Uninspired and Inconsistent in loss to MTL

Keys to the Game:

  • Pester Atlanta’s playmakers all night long
    Atlanta United’s ability to score has been unreal this season, having multiple attacking threats that can be unleashed at any moment. Their five best attacking players have combined for 32 goals and 25 assists so far this season and show no signs of stopping. The Union will need to be ready for Atlanta to have numerous waves of possession in Saturday’s match and try to pester the playmakers whenever they have the ball. Almiron and Asad are the players that run the show in midfield, while Martinez and Villalba are the main forwards. Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya may have a busy night on Saturday, but will need to stick to their task for the Union to keep Atlanta off the scoreboard.
  • Player to Watch – Chris Pontius
    Expected to start on the left-wing, Chris Pontius needs to put in a strong performance for the Union. It’s been 12 matches since Pontius has last recorded a point for the Union, and his time in the starting lineup may be running out. His work defensively has been solid, but Pontius needs to help the Union get some goals if he wants to keep his spot in the starting XI after this weekend.