A late season revival comes to the test against the Supporters Shield leaders
Atlanta United’s resurgence has come careening out of the blue, but it’s been as impactful as unexpected. From just trying to avoid humiliation and ending up in one of the penultimate spots in the standings, the Five Stripes are now well within the playoff race and hitting form at the perfect time. But that’s where the good news stops. Not only does Atlanta have a game out of hand on the teams above it, but its upcoming schedule is about as most difficult as you’ll find, starting with a clash with league leaders Philadelphia Union.
The Union has usurped LAFC in the Supporters Shield standings since we last met at the end of August – a 4-1 victory for Philly. Jim Curtin’s side has gone on to beat the Red Bulls and Orlando by a combined score of 7-2 since then and now have 63 points, two clear of Los Angeles. Though setting a new points record is out of the question for Philadelphia, a second Supporters Shield in three seasons is a real possibility and despite its lofty lead atop the Eastern Conference, the Union still has plenty to play for.
As we saw back on August 31st in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia’s three-headed attack is a force to be reckoned with. Daniel Gazdag (19g, 5a), Julian Carranza (14g, 6a), and Mikael Uhre (12g, 3a) scored a goal each in the return fixture and have combined to tally more goals than half of the teams in the East. A defensive performance like which we saw against Orlando is the bare minimum if Atlanta is to avoid another blowout this weekend.
The Five Stripes (on 39 points) are somehow just three points out of fifth place but need to leapfrog Miami (39) and Columbus (41) to just get above the red line whatsoever. Cincinnati and Orlando are the other teams Atlanta could feasibly catch up to, but a run in featuring Philadelphia, New England (away), and NYCFC means 7th is the best Gonzalo Pineda’s side could hope for. Any sort of result against a team like Philly, however, would be a massive boost to Atlanta’s still slim postseason chances.
Predicted Starting XIs
McBlunder’s Prediction: Atlanta United 2-2 Philadelphia Union
The Five Stripes won’t quite be able to extend its winning streak but it will do enough to take a draw into the international break thanks to strikes from Thiago Almada and Dom Dwyer.