Match: Penn FC vs Atlanta United 2
Date: Saturday, September 8th
Time: 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Central, 4:00 p.m. Pacific, 11:00 p.m. UTC
Venue: FNB Field (City Island. Harrisburg, PA)
Refs: REF: Lukasz Szpala AR1: Zeno (Gyu Ho) Cho AR2: Ben Pilgrim 4TH: Robert Sr. Ryan
How to Watch: ESPN + (Subscription Required)
How Atlanta will look: After a promising start to 2018, Atlanta has struggled to perform as the season wore on. They’ve only managed to get four wins so far this season and two of them have come against Toronto FC II.
Their most dangerous players have mostly been loanees from their parent club, but it’s uncertain who will be available on Saturday. Mitch Hildebrandt of FC Cincinnati fame may be available, but don’t expect to see Romario Williams as he’s with Jamaica on international duty. Shawn Nicklaw will be missing as well as he’s off representing Guam. That means that their most dangerous player will be Irishman Jon Gallagher who scored the equalizer when Penn FC visited Atlanta back in April.
How Penn FC will look: Penn FC is on a two match winning streak as they prepare for their last nine matches of the season, all at home. The offense has been clicking as they’ve managed five goals in their last two matches. But what has been helping the most is that the defense has been hanging tough as well. They only allowed one goal on Sunday against Bethlehem and Romu Peiser made a bunch of impressive saves during the second half.
Penn FC might need to call on their defense as their offensive unit is going to be tapped out on Saturday. Lucky Mkosana, Aaron Dennis, and Jorge Rivera are all on international duty and Isaac Osae will probably be out due to injury. That means that it’ll probably come down to Tommy Heinemann to put in some minutes at striker. Paulo Jr. is another option as well as youngster Fabio de Sousa. He hasn’t appeared since the Open Cup match against Richmond where he recorded an assist.
What to Expect: There’s more than the usual amount of uncertainty for Saturday’s match as both teams are missing some players due to international call ups. For Penn FC that means that some of their most reliable goal scorers won’t be available. So who’s going to step up and take their place?
Penn FC has some young talent that has been waiting on the sidelines for an opportunity to make a difference this season. But now might not be the time for Penn FC to try anything too crazy as they need to bank three points against ATL UTD 2 in order to stay in the hunt for the playoffs. On the other hand, it could be important to get these young players involved early in the Homestretch because Penn FC is going to be playing two or three matches a week for the rest of the season and they’ll need plenty of fresh legs to rotate onto the pitch.
With all that in mind, the best way for Atlanta to play spoiler is to sneak one in early. Bethlehem did this on Sunday when they capitalized on a defensive error to take an early lead inside the first ten minutes. But Penn FC bounced back behind goals from Dennis and Mkosana. Without those scorers, who would be able to get Penn FC back in the game?
If that does happen, then Penn FC does have one unusual route to put in a few goals. Don’t forget that defenders Ken Tribbett and Kyle Venter have both scored on City Island this season. Penn FC can use their younger, faster players to stretch the field and earn some set pieces. Then they have Richard Menjivar to launch some balls for Tribbett or Venter in head into the net. It’s true what they say, sometimes the best offense is a good defender.
PREDICTION: This one might end up being pretty tight because of the roster changes caused by the international call ups. But I think Penn FC starts their Homestrech off right and takes it 1-0.