Philadelphia Union have four-match unbeaten streak snapped thanks to early red cards for Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya, lose 3-1 to Atlanta United FC.
Under the rarely opened roof of a jammed-pack Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, Philadelphia Union were beaten 3-1 by Atlanta United FC following some questionable officiating Saturday night.
Atlanta’s Venezuelan goal-scorer, Josef Martinez, tied the MLS record for most hat tricks, Philadelphia’s veteran midfield duo of Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin hit the showers after just 19 minutes, and after it all – Philadelphia earns some respect given their 9-man effort.
Atlanta did well to jump on the young back line of Philadelphia whenever passes were played back. Mark McKenzie’s youth was exploited a few times with their pressure.
Around the 10th minute mark, McKenzie intercepted a clearance, but his pass was intercepted by Darlington Nagbe who jumped on the loose ball and sprinted downfield on a counter chance. Bedoya tugged Nagbe off the ball and nodded in agreement to the Yellow card he was shown. His foul saved what looked to be a deadly chance for Atlanta to strike early.
Immediately following that near goal scoring chance, Atlanta’s midfield began pressing further up, almost approaching Philadelphia’s back four like ballhawks. Soon enough, their strategy paid off.
Medunjanin, while being forced back, played a dangerous pass toward McKenzie in a bad area of the pitch. McKenzie’s first touch went awry, and the ball was lost. Miguel Almiron corralled the loose ball and slipped a quick ball to a streaking Martinez. Philadelphia’s Auston Trusty recovered well, dispossessed Martinez without much contact. Head ref, Sorin Stoica, whistled for a penalty after Martinez slipped because of Trusty’s brief contact.
And then all hell broke loose.
It was as if Stoica’s whistle ignited a powder keg of turmoil. A barrage of Union players including Bedoya and Medunjanin surrounded Stoica.
All they wanted was for Stoica to turn to Video Assistant Referee Kevin Terry Jr. and a variety of camera angles to view the questionable foul called in the box.
Bedoya was shown a second yellow for dissent, meaning a red card and early shower. Medunjanin then increased his angry outburst. After a jawing match with Stoica, Medunjanin was shown a yellow. The yellow caused Medunjanin’s anger to boil over resulting in a red.
Yet, the penalty still had to be taken.
Martinez stepped up and slammed it past Jamaican Andre Blake. Atlanta fans rejoiced in their teams new-found fortune, a 1-0 lead and a two-man advantage for the next 80+ minutes.
Curtin, who at this point must’ve realized the game plan was all but foiled, swapped Dockal off for a defensive-minded Warren Creavalle. Philadelphia displayed some sound defending throughout the remainder of the half despite the devastating red cards.
The half ended 1-0 in Atlanta’s favor. Philadelphia headed to the locker room in disarray.
Two minutes after the second half kicked off, Martinez attempted a bicycle kick that sailed just over the bar. Another two minutes passed, and Martinez netted his second of the night. Almiron made his way to the end line and slid a pass just beyond McKenzie’s outstretched leg. His pass was hit firmly into the back of the net by Martinez, who found space behind Trusty along the goal line.
Exactly 30 minutes following the embarrassing display of refereeing that created two red cards for Philadelphia, Atlanta jumped to a 2-0 lead.
However, Philadelphia didn’t quit. One minute after Atlanta’s second goal, Marcus Epps dispossessed Almiron and quickly sprinted down Atlanta’s right flank. Mikey Ambrose knocked Epps down, granting Philadelphia a free kick opportunity from a dangerous area. Fabinho stepped up to take the kick while Sapong, McKenzie, and Picault among others inched closer toward Guzan’s goal.
Fabinho’s free kick was cleared but not effectively, allowing Creavalle time to settle it and send a looping ball back into the box. Picault remained onside, took a touch, and sent a shot dribbling under the legs of keeper Brad Guzan for a much-needed 52nd minute goal. McKenzie scooped up the ball while the rest of the team sprinted back to quicken the restart of play.
Curtin smartly deployed another set of fresh legs prior to the 60th minute mark. Ilsinho was sent on for Epps, in hopes of keeping the Union’s right side fresh.
Philadelphia showed signs of tallying an equalizer just after the hour mark. A goal kick from Blake was won in the air by the athletic Picault. His head flicked a ball forward that sent Sapong free with just Gonzalez Pirez to beat. Sensing trouble, Gonzalez Pirez reached out and grabbed Sapong forcing him off-balance and tumbling to the ground.
Stoica’s whistle remained silent. He only blew the play dead when he noticed Sapong rolling in agony as a result of the contact. Curtin sent on Cory Burke for the banged up Sapong in the 66th minute for the third and final sub.
The 83rd minute granted Martinez his hat trick. A hand ball in the box by Fabinho forced Stoica to call another penalty kick. Martinez nailed it home tying that MLS record for most hat tricks with five in first MLS season.
The final whistle provided sweet relief for a Philadelphia team butchered by Stoica’s red cards, as the match ended 3-1.
– Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin: Considering both are monumental in terms of on and off field leadership for a young Union team, their reactions to Sorin Stoica’s decisions Saturday are extremely disheartening. It’s never acceptable to be hostile towards a referee, regardless of whether one agrees with a decision. To see such uncontrolled outburst from two international professionals may be a sign of the times for MLS officiating.
– Warren Creavalle: Lost in all this, Philadelphia’s nine-man performance which allowed only two goals. Creavalle is one of the main reasons for that respectable effort. He displayed great physicality and energy, and his assist on Picault’s goal leaves fans wondering what else he has up his sleeve.
– Sorin Stoica + MLS Officiating: It’s no secret that officiating in this league is rather unpredictable. MLS fans know all too well at this point just how inconsistent quality officiating occurs and tonight is another example of how MLS referees fail to control a match. Two red cards in just 19 minutes hasn’t occurred in MLS history.
Philadelphia Union Starting XI:
Andre Blake, Fabinho, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Ray Gaddis, Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Fafa Picault, Borek Dockal (Warren Creavalle 23’), Marcus Epps (Ilsinho 57’), CJ Sapong (Cory Burke 65’)
Substitutes: John McCarthy, Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliot, David Accam
Atlanta United FC Starting XI:
Brad Guzan, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst, Franco Escobar, Chris McCann (Mikey Ambrose 45’), Jeff Larentowicz, Darlington Nagbe, Julian Gressel, Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco (Brandon Vazquez 76’), Josef Martinez (Romario Williams 84’)
Substitutes: Alec Kann, Andrew Carleton, Kevin Kratz, Sal Zizzo
ATL 21’ – Josef Martinez (PK)
ATL 49’ – Josef Martinez (Miguel Almiron, Mikey Ambrose)
PHI 52’ – Fafa Picault (Warren Creavalle)
ATL 83’ – Josef Martinez (PK)
PHI 11’ – YELLOW- Alejandro Bedoya (Unsporting Behavior)
PHI 19’ – 2nd YELLOW, RED – Alejandro Bedoya (encroachment of penalty area)
PHI 19’ – Double YELLOW, RED – Haris Medunjanin (Dissent)
PHI 28’ – YELLOW – Fafa Picault (Dissent)
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Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports