Atlanta United may have the fresher legs against Philadelphia

During the first half at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York, on Wednesday September 25, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Atlanta United)
During the first half at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx, New York, on Wednesday September 25, 2019. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Atlanta United)

When Atlanta United and Philadelphia last met, it was the eighth game in less than a month for the Five Stripes.

The visitors held on to 1-1 for as long as they could until the Union broke through with two goals in the final minutes to secure a 3-1 win at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa.

This time, when the teams meet in the semifinals of the Eastern Conference playoffs on Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Philadelphia may have the tired legs. Not only did the Union play a day later than Atlanta United, it needed 30 extra minutes to win its game, 4-3 over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday. Atlanta United defeated New England 1-0 on Saturday.

“I think going into extra time is always tough on players, especially when you’ve put all that effort into 90 minutes knowing that you’ve got quite a bit left,” Atlanta United’s Emerson Hyndman said. “I was watching the game, and it looked like there were some tired legs out there, a little bit. We look quite fresh and the end of the game, which was nice to see. Obviously the extra day helps as well. We’re confident in our energy levels, and having watched the game I think it might be a big advantage.”

Centerback Flo Pogba, who may start because of injuries to Miles Robinson (hamstring) and Michael Parkhurst (shoulder) said he's not sure that having more time between games is doing to be that big of an advantage.

“Anything can happen in one game,” he said. “The advantage that I do think we have is playing at home in front of our fans. That’s going to be important for us. We know it’s going to be a great game. Philadelphia’s a difficult opponent. They beat us at their house this season. The fans will be important.”

Philadelphia has its own injuries.

Striker Kacper Przybylko, who scored the winning goal in the previous meeting on Aug. 31, didn’t play against Red Bulls because of an foot injury sustained near the end of the regular season. Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, who scored in the 30th minute on Sunday,  left the game in the 112th minute with an undisclosed injury.

“Obviously Bedoya, big player for them, almost a leader for their team,” Hyndman said. “It will probably be a big miss if he doesn’t play in the game. That’s something that can happen this late in the season. It’s never nice to see, but at the same time we’ve got to try to take advantage of what they’re lacking at the time, and that’s what we’re looking at.”