Despite losing to Philadelphia 3-1 on Saturday, Atlanta United's hopes of finishing in first place in the MLS Eastern Conference are still alive.
The key to finishing in first, which comes with a bye in the first round of the playoffs and homefield advantage until the MLS Cup, will be to win the rest of its six games. Atlanta United is off until it hosts Columbus on Sept. 14.
» PLAYER RATINGS: Philadelphia 3, Atlanta United 1
“That’s going to be our goal,” Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “We feel we are good enough to go places and get results. Tonight we weren’t at our best and when you play good teams you get punished.”
Here’s the situation after Saturday:
Philadelphia is in first place in the East with 51 points. NYCFC is in second with 50, but has played two fewer games than the Union. Atlanta United is in third with 48 points, but has played one fewer game than the Union and one more than NYCFC.
“New York is in pole position,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said. “They have the best possibility to be on top. We with one game less than Philly can still be on top if we win that game. I have confidence that we will do after our two-week break.”
One of Atlanta United’s six remaining games is at NYCFC on Sept. 25. If Atlanta United is victorious in that game as part of finishing with six consecutive wins it will finish the regular season with 66 points. All it would need is for NYCFC to not win one of its other six games and, if that happens, Atlanta United will finish with more points, 66-65. If NYCFC draws one of its remaining six the two teams will finish with the same total of 66 points. The first tie-breaker is number of wins. Atlanta United would have 21 to NYCFC’s 19 in that scenario. If NYCFC loses to Atlanta United but wins its other six games it will finish with more points than Atlanta United, 68-66.
Regarding Philadelphia, if Atlanta United and the Union win out (which would help Atlanta United), the two teams will be tied on points but Atlanta United would again have the first tie-breaker, wins (21).
Here’s the kicker: Philadelphia will host NYCFC in final game of the regular season on Oct. 6.
But Atlanta United has almost two weeks to rest and re-charge for the final push.
“We have to swallow it and go on, take a really nice break and charge the battery again,” de Boer said. “I’m really confident we can show what we showed in the last couple of weeks in the next month.”
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