Thursday night, Atlanta United Football Club will face a difficult test in the Audi MLS Cup Eastern Conference Semifinals when they take on the Philadelphia Union inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In the 1-0 win against the New England Revolution, center back and captain Michael Parkhurst will not play due to a dislocated shoulder. Additionally, center back Miles Robinson has been ruled out due to a strained hamstring he suffered while training with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
More than likely, manager Frank de Boer will utilize Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Florentin Pogba and Franco Escobar in the back three because they are the only healthy center backs in the first team. Expect midfielder Jeff Larentowicz to slide into the number six role as he might sit in front of the back three to help provide defensive cover.
Philadelphia has proven to be a tough out for Atlanta during the season. Usually, Philly attempts to create problems in transition for opposing defenses by pressing. Philly also features Kacper Przybylko, a 6’4″ unit of a striker that’s tallied 15 goals and four assists. The only player Atlanta United has that could match up with him one-on-one would be Pogba.
Philadelphia will arrive in Atlanta after a 4-3 win over the New York Red Bulls in the first round, which was a 120-minute odyssey which they came back from a 3-1 deficit in the second half. With the win, Philly won their first playoff game in ten years. However, Przybylko did not make the 18 man squad, missing the victory with a foot injury. It remains to be seen
Even though the weather was dreary with unrelenting rain, Atlanta United’s announced attendance of 66,114 for Saturday’s playoff game against New England was surpassed only by the 73,737 at Old Trafford for Sunday’s game between Manchester United and Liverpool in Manchester, England, and the 81,365 at Signal Iduna Park in Dortumund, Germany, for Saturday’s game between Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund. The Five Stripes led Major League Soccer in attendance for the third straight season with an average attendance of 52,510.
Atlanta United will host the Philadelphia Union Thursday night at 8:00 PM at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
This article originally appeared in The Atlanta Voice.