Atlanta United travels to Philadelphia after stinging loss

After a disheartening loss on Wednesday, the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta United will look to rebound in a road game against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night.

Atlanta (11-4-4) let a late lead get away in a 3-2 loss to FC Dallas in a battle of conference leaders, marking just its fourth defeat of the season and first in seven league matches.

United still holds a two-point lead over FC Dallas in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, the award for the team that finishes with the best regular-season record. But Atlanta coach Tata Martino admitted that it might be challenging for his group to rebound from a painful loss that saw it concede two goals inside the final five minutes.

“I hope the loss doesn’t affect us for the next match,” Martino said. “These kinds of losses hurt. They hurt the most when you don’t deserve to lose.

“When the opponents are better than you, it’s a different kind of feeling because you know that team outplayed you. You are able to accept that loss more even though it still hurts you. In our case, we did everything we could to win but ended up leaving empty-handed.”

On the bright side, Atlanta still has at its disposal Josef Martinez, who scored his 16th and 17th goals of the season at Dallas as he continues his challenge for the MLS season record. The Venezuelan has found the net nine times in his last seven games.

With 15 matches left, Martinez is 10 goals from tying the MLS record of 27 owned by three players, including New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Philadelphia (6-8-3) can only wish it had an offensive producer of Martinez’s caliber. Philadelphia’s 21 goals scored are the fewest of any Eastern Conference side.

The attack has been marginally better of late, particularly in a 4-0 home thumping of Vancouver two weeks ago that included preseason signee Borek Dockal’s best MLS performance to date. He had two goals in that game.

But as the Union begins the second half of its season, it still needs more consistent offensive production. Philadelphia has lost three of its last four matches, including a 3-1 defeat at Atlanta on June 2 and a 4-1 loss at Los Angeles FC last Saturday.

Against LAFC, Philadelphia suffered its seventh loss by a mulitple-goal margin despite playing the hosts nearly even in terms of possession and chances.

“We’ve had a week to look at the film, to digest and to make some adjustments and tweaks,” Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin said. “The top teams in this league punish mistakes, and LAFC is a top team. The good news is we get another test against a top team pretty quickly.”