Match Recap: Shorthanded Union blow lead and tie Atlanta United 2-2

A shorthanded Philadelphia Union blew a lead when they gave up a goal in stoppage time, settling for a 2-2 draw in their first-ever contest against Atlanta United.

Union first XI – Blake; Wijnaldum, Yaro, Elliott, Rosenberry; Medujanin, Bedoya; Picault (Creavalle 85’), Alberg (Marquez 54’), Pontius (Ilsinho 75’); Sapong

Atlanta United first XI – Guzan; Garza, Gonzalez Pirez, Parkhurst (Gressel 59’), Walkes (Mears 75’); McCann, Larentowicz; Asad, Almiron, Villalba (Peterson 75’); Martinez

“That’s so Union.” It’s a phrase Union fans have been saying a lot this season. They were saying it last Saturday after blowing a lead in stoppage time at home, and they were saying it tonight when they did it again.

You could even look at the Major League Soccer schedule and say “That’s so Union.” MLS is calling this weekend “Rivalry Week.” And it just figured for the Union,  MLS schedules them against a team that they have never played: expansion club Atlanta United.

Keegan Rosenberry returned to the Union lineup after spending most of the season on the bench. Manager Jim Curtin let Oguchi Onyewu take a breather after playing on Wednesday night, with Joshua Yaro taking over the right centerback spot, and Jack Elliott moving to the left.

Atlanta manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino played most of his standard starting XI, the exception being Chris McCann taking over one of the defensive midfielder position in the place of Carlos Carmona who was suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

The first half was a wild affair with three goals scored in the space of 8 minutes. The Union drew first blood when Roland Alberg scored in the 18th minute. Giliano Wijnaldum lobbed a pass into the penalty area, and Alberg ran past the defenders to receive the ball and shoot it into the net.

Four minutes later, the boys in blue increased their lead on a goal by Alejandro Bedoya. An Alberg corner kick bounced off an Atlanta player and a leaping Bedoya made a nice shot in the air to make the score 2-0. It was Bedoya’s first home goal as a Union player.

Atlanta-082617-Bedoya

Bedoya stretches to score a goal
Photo: Fimmano Photogrphy

The goal fest continued in the 26th minute when Yamil Asad scored Atlanta’s first-ever goal in Talen Energy Stadium. Josef Martinez headed the ball to the unmarked Asad, who shot a bullet into the goal past Andre Blake.

The first half kept up its frantic pace, but no one else scored, giving the Union a halftime lead of 2-1.

The game changed in the 52nd minute when Yaro pulled down Martinez as he was running into the box. Referee Drew Fischer determined that Yaro had denied Martinez a goal-scoring opportunity and showed him the red card. The Union then had to defend their one-goal lead for most of the second half. Curtin immediately subbed out Alberg for Richie Marquez, so Marquez could defend the Union’s lead in Yaro’s place.

And the shorthanded Union performed well. Atlanta could not find a way to crack the U’s defense in regulation, and Union looked all set to bank the three points at home going into stoppage time.

But this is the Union we’re talking about. In the first minute of stoppage time, Blake came off his line to punch away a cross from Greg Garza. As the ball started to bounce out of the penalty area, Tyrone Means came running in and headed the ball into the goal. And Union Twitter exploded with tweets of “That’s so Union” once again.

After the game, Bedoya was visibly exasperated as he walked into the press conference room, “What can I say? This feeling sucks.” Yes it does, Ale, yes it does.

The Union are not yet mathematically eliminated from the playoff chase, but it’s a real longshot now with seven matches to play. The team gets a break during next week’s FIFA international dates, and will return to action on September 9 when they play the other MLS expansion club, Minnesota United. One player who will not be taking the trip to Minnesota is Bedoya, who earned a yellow card with a studs-up foul in the 13th minute and is suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

Final thoughts:

  • The Union did an excellent job playing shorthanded, and it is a shame they didn’t get the win.
  • Rosenberry looked more like the player we were used to seeing last year when he was a Rookie of the Year candidate.
  • On the other side, Wijnaldum did a solid job defending.
  • Elliott, who usually plays right centerback, performed well on the left.

Bedoya had a great game. “He emptied his tank,” according to Curtin, and the team is going to miss his presence in the next match.

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