The Union are on the brink of elimination from the playoffs after losing on the road to Atlanta United FC 3-0.
Union starting XI: Blake; Fabinho, Elliott, Onyewu, Rosenberry (Gaddis 78′); Medujanin, Creavalle (Alberg 70′), Bedoya; Picault, Sapong, Pontius (Epps 70′)
Atlanta starting XI: Guzan; McCann, Gonzalez Perez, Larentowicz, Walkes; Carmona, Kratz; Asad (Garza 68′), Gressel (Peterson 87′), Villalba; Martinez (Jones 82′)
The Philadelphia Union made their first-ever visit to Atlanta, and it was one they’ll want to forget.
The Union might have liked their chances when they walked into Atlanta’s brand new Mercedez Benz Stadium for the first time. They had just given a good 3-1 beatdown to the Chicago Fire at home, and they were riding a four-game unbeaten streak. And Atlanta was going to be without their usual number 10, Paraguayan DP Miguel Almiron. Atlanta also decided to give regular centerback, Michael Parkhurst, a rest for the first time this season.
The Union went with mostly the same lineup they’d trotted out Saturday for their win against the Fire, the one exception being Oguchi Onyewu taking the place of Richie Marquez at left centerback.
And right from start, the Union looked like they were going to have tough evening. Utilizing the 4-3-3 they introduced last weekend, they were unable to get much possession of the ball and needed to depend on Andre Blake to constantly make saves to stay in the game. It was only a matter of time before Atlanta scored—in the 27th minute on a Julian Gressel goal. Gressel has been mentioned as a Rookie of the Year candidate, and his run passing by Onyewu and Creavalle to shoot past a diving Blake may have helped seal that up. (Sorry, Jack Elliott.)
The pressure kept up and United notched their second goal 6 minutes later, when Josef Martinez received a pass from Gressel and took his shot about nine yards out, before Jack Elliott could get there. Blake couldn’t reach it, and Atlanta had a comfortable two-goal lead.
After that, United took their foot off the gas pedal a little, and the Union actually managed to get into Atlanta’s side of the field, but never really threatened for the rest of the half.
The second half saw a seemingly different Union side come out. They were having the better of the run of play when they got a scare in the 54th minute: Hector Villalba put the ball into the net, but thanks to video review, the goal was called back as he was clearly offsides.
The Union were finally getting chances as the half wore on but were unable to finish them. The closest they got was a Haris Medunjanin shot from just outside the penalty arc that hit the crossbar.
By the 70th minute, the Union were desperate for a goal, so Jim Curtin had Marcus Epps and Roland Alberg replace Warren Creavalle and Chris Pontius. They appeared to go back to their usual 4-2-3-1, but Atlanta stomped on the gas again and the subs were ineffective. The Union used their last sub in the 78th minute when Raymon Gaddis replaced an injured Keegan Rosenberry, who rolled his ankle while attempting a tackle.
Atlanta manager Tata Martino replaced Gressel with Jacob Peterson in the 87th minute, and Peterson didn’t waste time—he scored a minute later. A Villalba pass found Peterson as he beat Fabinho and then ran past Blake to put the ball into the open net. Tonight, it would be the boys in blue on the receiving end of a 3-0 beatdown.
A win by the New York Red Bulls over DC United would have officially eliminated the Union from playoff contention, but that game ended in a tie, so technically the Union are still in it. But I’m embarrassed that I even wrote that, because we all know that there will be no Union soccer being played in November. At least the weather will be nice for their match at home on Sunday against the Seattle Sounders.
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