Union, Atlanta United want to play better

Atlanta United settled for a draw that felt a lot like a loss its last time out. The Philadelphia Union are coming off a 3-1 win that their coach called their worst performance of the season at home.

The two Eastern Conference squads will try to put together more satisfying performances Saturday when they collide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

United (8-3-2, 26 points) got an early goal from striker Josef Martinez on the road against the New England Revolution on Wednesday and maintained a 1-0 lead into the final minutes before conceding an equalizer on a penalty kick.

The high-scoring Five Stripes had chances to extend their lead but uncharacteristically failed to capitalize and ended up having to settle for the draw.

“Hopefully, we put it behind us,” Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst told reporters after the loss. “It’s a tough one. It’s a tie that feels like a loss. It’s disappointing, but we come back home and have another Eastern Conference game on Saturday. We need to make sure we get a win at home. It’s been two straight games that we haven’t done that. We need to right that ship.”

The Union (5-5-3, 18 points) got goals from Ilsinho, Cory Burke and Borek Dockal in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Sunday. But Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin wasn’t pleased with his team’s overall performance.

“Proud of the guys in terms of fight and grit and effort,” Curtin told reporters, “but in terms of the quality of soccer we played, I thought it was our worst performance at home.”

Atlanta, which had been virtually unstoppable on its home pitch, has lost its last two matches at raucous Mercedes-Benz Stadium and still getting used to the absence of consistent defender Greg Garza.

Garza underwent shoulder surgery last week and is out four to six weeks, possibly for the season.

The Union are dealing with a key injury of their own. Defender Mark McKenzie went down against the Fire with what was described as a knee injury. Curtin said after the game that McKenzie will undergo an MRI. His status on Thursday was unknown for Saturday’s game in Atlanta.

The Five Stripes beat the Union 3-0 in Philadelphia’s visit to Atlanta last season. They also drew with the Union 2-2 last August.

Martinez leads MLS with nine goals.

The Union are just 1-4-1 on the road this season.