Atlanta United v Philadelphia Union
The stakes are getting higher and higher for two sides who meet at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday evening when Atlanta United welcome the current pacesetters in the race for the Supporters’ Shield in Philadelphia Union.
The equation for the Union is a simple one. If they win their last three matches then they will win the Supporters’ Shield and every team in the postseason will know the MLS Cup runs through Philadelphia. If they fail to win out they leave the door open for Los Angeles FC to snatch those honours.
Union head to take on an Atlanta United side who are scrapping like mad for a spot in the postseason. They have picked up successive wins for the first time this season and a third on the spin could see them enter the top seven if other results go their way.
It wasn’t pretty in midweek against Orlando but Atlanta got the job done and there were signs in that game that key players, notably Thiago Almada, Alan Franco and Brooks Lennon, were rounding into some form.
This match looks set up for goals to me. The pair met in Philadelphia just a few weeks ago and the Union won 4-1 so they will know they can get at this Atlanta back line but there is no situation where the ‘Five Stripes’ can sit back in this game. They have to win it and it won’t be lost on them that their goal difference could be repaired over the next three games too.
Atlanta tend to only go forward at home anyway while this Union side are suddenly scoring for fun. The need for points here is likely to ensure the goals flow in this one.
New England Revolution v CF Montreal
The current holders of the Supporters’ Shield continue their quest to reach the play-offs for a second season in succession in the early hours of Sunday morning when the New England Revolution welcome CF Montreal to Gillette Stadium.
This is an interesting clash for a few reasons, not least the need of the Revolution to pick up points to force their way into the top seven. With Montreal beginning the weekend in second place in the Eastern Conference it could be that if the Revs do get to extend their season these two could be meeting in the opening round of the knockout stage of the campaign so this is a chance for both to lay a marker down.
CF Montreal have arguably been the surprise package of the season but with key departures already slated for the end of the year they know this might be their best chance of MLS Cup glory for a while. They won’t want to go into October and November out of form and go in search of a seventh win in 10 matches.
New England have only won one of their last seven and have dropped three points away from a play-off spot and with only three matches left they are at the stage where their next loss could be fatal.
That means Bruce Arena’s men are likely to have to take a few more risks to try and pick up the points in this match, which will suit CF Montreal perfectly.
Goals are likely to come regularly here as a result. Six of the last seven New England matches have had more than 2.5 goals and seven of the last nine have for Montreal. The last seven regular MLS clashes between these two have also contained over 2.5 goals and those are trends I expect to continue here.
Austin FC v Nashville SC
Two Western Conference rivals clash in the early hours of Sunday morning where we could get an insight into where the MVP player for this season goes as Austin FC take on Nashville SC in an entertaining contest at Q2 Stadium.
Those two men are Sebastian Driussi of the home side while the visitors will carry the threat of Hany Mukhtar. These two are not just MVP contenders but they are battling it out for the Golden Boot as well with Driussi having 20 goals to his name this term but trailing the German by two strikes.
That is the side attention to this match but the main one is that these two have their eyes on the MLS Cup prize this season. Austin FC have been one of the best teams in MLS throughout the campaign and head into the weekend in second place in the table.
Nashville have come right back into form over the last month or so and sit in fourth heading into this game. They will be looking to maintain that position and secure a home game in the opening round of the play-offs.
There is also the possibility of these two meeting later in the season when it really matters as well so I’m expecting a competitive contest here, and one where the star quality that is on show within these two sides combine for the goals to flow.
12 of the last 14 Austin FC matches have had over 2.5 goals and the other two had exactly two goals. The 1-1 draw between Nashville and LA Galaxy last weekend ended a run of six straight overs for the visitors. This is another entertaining clash which can deliver at least three goals.
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