After a break in the schedule, two hard-to-beat teams will get down to business on Sunday afternoon, as Atlanta United welcome Philadelphia Union to Mercedes-Benz Stadium (2pm ET; TV: Live on ESPN).
Can the hosts make it six games without tasting defeat? Or will the visitors extend their winning run to four? Read on for our Atlanta vs Philadelphia MLS game predictions, preview & betting picks.
Two of the toughest
It is early days but it’s already looking like Atlanta and Philadelphia are going to be two of the hardest teams to get the better of in MLS this season. Both come here off the back of going five matches without tasting defeat, while they’ve lost just three of their 15 combined fixtures this term.
What is more interesting is the fact that Atlanta haven’t lost at home yet, while Philly are yet to be beaten on the road. The hosts also have one of the best home defensive records in the Eastern Conference, having conceded only three goals in their three matches at Mercedes-Benz Arena. The Union have the best away defensive record in the conference, having conceded zero, yes zero, goals in three travelling fixtures.
The Five Stripes have been enjoying a decent campaign under the wily stewardship of defence minded Gabriel Heinze, but not because of attacking flair and plenty of goals. They are no longer the swashbuckling outfit that swiped teams out of the way en route to winning the MLS Cup under Tata Martino a few years ago. They’re now much more pragmatic, much harder to break down, and such a style is seeing them tick along very nicely. They’ve done a pleasing job of keeping teams at bay, especially of late, conceding more than once in just one of their last five, which is not something that teams do on a regular basis in MLS.
Offensively, Atlanta leave something to be desired, particularly over the last month or so. Heinze’s men have scored more than once in just one of their last six, though they have scored six in three in their own backyard, which is far from discouraging.
Just like last season, Philadelphia Union have emerged as one of the top teams in the east. Only the Revs currently sit above them in the table, and they’re proving hard to beat, week in, week out. A bit like Atlanta, it’s not that they’re blowing teams away with amazingly strong attacking football, but they’re grinding out results in impressive fashion, giving little away, especially on their travels.
Away from home, Philly are yet to concede, which is impressive since they’ve played on the road three times. That’s over 270 minutes of road soccer without letting the opponents score. It’s probably fair to say that not many teams will achieve that this campaign.
Meeting not for the first time
Naturally, this isn’t the first time the pair have met, and it’s not the first time they’ve met this season. The pair faced off in a two-legged Concacaf Champions League encounter back in April and it was Philly who won with something in hand. After losing by three goals to nil on home soil, Atlanta regained some dignity by earning a draw at Talen Energy Stadium, but it was just too little, too late.
When the pair met here in April, it wasn’t as if the Union walked over the Five Stripes, far from it, as Atlanta dominated possession and had more shots and more shots on target. They were poor in terms of end-product, something which has shone through on a few occasions this term. In contrast, Philly were very clinical, as they have been for much of the current campaign.
Where’s the bet?
The obvious starting point would be to look at the under market. Philadelphia have only scored an average of a goal per away match and are yet to concede, while the hosts aren’t exactly the most fearsome going forward. However, that has all clearly been factored into the odds and thus, with the lines the way they are right now, ‘Under 2.5 Goals’, makes little appeal.
Instead, an away win catches the eye. Atlanta have yet to lose at home in the league, which is commendable, but Philly have already proved that their clinical nature can yield dividends at this venue. It is they who have more to offer offensively, at least in terms of getting the ball in the net, while they too are the better side at the back.
While Atlanta have shipped three home MLS goals this term, the Union are yet to concede on the road. It is the visitors who have the slightly better expected goal difference too, boasting a modest +0.04 in comparison to Atlanta’s -0.29. It’s not a massive difference, but it’s enough to suggest that the visitors ought to be slightly shorter odds. On this basis, backing the away win offers bettors a slice of value and that is our prediction for this preview.
- Philadelphia to win on the moneyline @ best odds of +210 with BetOnline.