Atlanta United confident before facing Philadelphia

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

A more confident and more clinical Atlanta United team will host Philadelphia in what may be the most challenging game it has faced.

The Five Stripes, winners of their past two for the first time this season, need a win Saturday to keep alive their improbable hopes of qualifying for the MLS playoffs. They trail fifth-place Orlando by three points and seventh-place Columbus by two points, with three games remaining.

“I would say confidence is good,” midfielder Amar Sejdic said. “I mean, back-to-back wins is something we’ve been striving for this entire season. It could have been better to come at a better an earlier time, but I think right now is also a good moment.”

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The Union have won their past five by a combined score of 23-2. It leads LAFC by two points in the race for the Supporter’s Shield, so it also needs a victory.

“I think they got their competence early,” Sejdic said. “I think they’ve established a kind of sense of identity in terms of what they want to achieve every game. They’re very aggressive on first and second balls. They win the second ball, and then they have runners going behind. And they just seem to be very fluid at the moment. But nonetheless, I think more so the focus is on us and how we’re able to play the best of our game.”

Atlanta United has gained confidence partially because it has been able to use the same starting lineup in the past two games and partially because it has been more effective in the opponent’s third. It scored four goals against Toronto, three on set pieces, on 27 shots, 10 on goal and created 18 chances to Toronto’s six.

It scored one against Orlando despite having its lowest percentage of possession (45) this season and creating just seven chances to Orlando’s 16. Atlanta United still created several clear-cut opportunities, including one by Luiz Araujo that was cleared off the goal line.

“Well, that’s a stat that I don’t pay too much attention to,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “I think a good possession can lead into having more and better chances than the opponent which is the key, and which is our objective.”

Atlanta United can fall back on the experience of playing Philadelphia four games ago. The Union won 4-1, but it was a score that didn’t reflect the competitiveness of the game. Philadelphia took 22 shots to Atlanta United’s 18. Both put four on goal.

Sejdic said he thought that Philadelphia took advantage of some of the chaos that it can create from its pressure.

“It’s a team that is difficult, but that if we play up to our standard, and our our concentration is up to the same level to the last two games, I think we’re gonna be OK,” Pineda said.

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0

August 6 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 1

August 13 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

August 17 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

August 21 Atlanta United 2, Columbus 2

August 28 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

August 31 Philadelphia 4, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 4 Portland 2, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 10 Atlanta United 4, Toronto 2

Sept. 14 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 0

Sept 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE