Despite registering 11 first half shots, Philadelphia Union failed to secure an early goal before Atlanta United FC opened the scoring Saturday night during a 2-0 home loss.
Philadelphia Union welcomed Atlanta United FC to Chester in what was slated to be a perfect opportunity for Philadelphia to exact some revenge on the Eastern Conference’s top team. What actually occurred was 90+ minutes of disappointment for Union fans.
Early on in the match, one could’ve wagered the Union were setting themselves up for victory. Twice throughout the match’s first ten minutes, Philadelphia executed their high pressure brilliantly. During the fifth minute, both Ilsinho and Borek Dockal forced Atlanta to play a pass back to their keeper, Brad Guzan. Guzan, despite his respected USMNT career, struggled distributing with his feet. Guzan decided to play a poor pass to his left after Fafa Picault pressed him into an early decision. Ray Gaddis jumped on the pass and his efforts allowed Dockal to win a free kick.
That set piece resulted in nada.
Five minutes later, Philadelphia pressed once more up the right-wing and created an Atlanta turnover. That turnover forced Philadelphia’s first corner kick, which also resulted in nada.
11 shot attempts resulted in nada throughout the first 45 minutes for Philadelphia.
Missed chances were a common theme throughout the first half, much like Haris Medunjanin’s lack of fitness.
The Bosnian returned to MLS play after his three-match suspension and his rustiness was apparent. Atlanta found early success when countering up the middle of the pitch. At times, it seemed as if Medunjanin was a mere traffic cone when tracking back defensively. Atlanta would continue to expose the central area of the pitch as the match wore on.
The end of the first half provided both clubs’ with their best chances to score since the opening whistle.
Atlanta’s chance came during the 39th minute when Ezequiel Barco, the highly touted 19-year Argentinian, streaked down the field on a counter attack. He beat McKenzie to the ball and quickly side-stepped him as he gathered the ball inside Philadelphia’s box. Barco seemed poised to put Atlanta ahead as he ripped a right-footed shot from close range. However, Rosenberry was nearby and extended beautifully to block Barco’s effort with an outstretched leg.
Three minutes later, Philadelphia would have a golden opportunity to grab the match’s first goal before halftime.
Rosenberry intercepted a weak pass which sparked a 5v4 situation for Philadelphia. Rosenberry sprinted forward with the ball and cut a nice pass toward the top of the box for Dockal. Dockal took a shot off the pass but his effort bent just wide.
The first half ended scoreless. Two things were apparent: Philadelphia blew their chances to grab an early lead AND Medunjanin needed to be replaced.
No personnel changes were made by either side to start the second half. However, Atlanta made adjustments in their attack, whereas Philadelphia remained intent on finding success with the same game plan.
Atlanta exploited the weakness they identified in the first half, Medunjanin. Philadelphia failed to change-up their lineup and were burnt as a result.
That game plan for Philadelphia relied heavily on creating chances down the right-wing. Combination play between Ilsinho, Dockal, and Rosenberry was working effectively for large portions of the match but no goal resulted.
Perhaps the best chance for Philadelphia to take reigns of the match occurred in the 55th minute. Perhaps, even, the missed chance actually deflated the team’s spirits.
During the 55th minute, Rosenberry sent a hard hit pass forward to Bedoya along the right flank. Bedoya cheekily flicked the ball on and sprinted by his man onto the ball. He then sent a perfect low cross into the box for a waiting Dockal. Dockal was all alone and in perfect position. However, he rushed his shot attempt and the ball sailed over the bar.
That missed chance was the story of the match for Philadelphia. They allowed Atlanta to hang around long enough to get beat.
Three minutes after Dockal’s miss, Atlanta notched their first goal. Miguel Almiron sprinted in behind past McKenzie during the 57th minute. Andre Blake, currently 3rd in MLS in saves, decided to come off his line to confront Almiron as he entered the goal box. In hindsight, Blake probably should have stayed home as McKenzie was recovering well. Almiron skillfully tapped the ball forward just as Blake dove and drew a penalty kick opportunity for Atlanta.
Josef Martinez stepped up to take the kick and buried it.
A 64’ substitution from Jim Curtin sent Cory Burke on for CJ Sapong. Yet Medunjanin stayed on the pitch.
Without enough energy in the middle of the pitch, Philadelphia failed to create consistent pressure throughout the last 25 minutes of the match. To put it plainly, without fresh legs at the defensive midfield position, Philadelphia was useless in their efforts to equalize.
Atlanta countered seamlessly whenever they wanted throughout the last 20 minutes of play. The 76th minute provided Atlanta with their second goal. Hector Villalba found himself in perfect scoring position thanks to assists from Almiron and Martinez. Altanta’s front three carved up Philadelphia’s defense for what was truly a beautiful goal.
Curtin decided to throw on David Accam in the 77th and then Marcus Epps in the 83rd. Neither of the two made any impacts.
The match ended 2-0 in Atlanta’s favor.
- Keegan Rosenberry + Ilsinho = Success. The right side of the pitch has consistently worked well together to create chances for Philadelphia this season. Tonight, they showed more of the same. The combination play that both Ilsinho and Rosenberry provide allows both Bedoya and Dockal to navigate more freely in the attacking third. The overwhelming majority of Philadelphia’s chances are created thanks to the play on the right side of the pitch.
- Haris Medunjanin – It’s not often you can honestly say that Medunjanin was totally ineffective after a Philadelphia match. But that was the case tonight. After his suspension, a little bit of rust is expected. But, at times, he was 100% a liability out there.
- CJ Sapong – 2 goals in 2018. 16 in 2017. He hasn’t scored since April. It seems one of the more interesting story lines so far this season is a simple question : How long will Curtin stick with Sapong?
PHILADELPHIA UNION STARTING XI:
Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry, Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Fafa Picault (77’ David Accam), Borek Dockal, Ilsinho (83’ Marcus Epps), CJ Sapong (64’ Cory Burke)
Substitutes: John McCarthy, Jack Elliot, Fabinho, Warren Creavalle
ATLANTA UNITED FC STARTING XI:
Brad Guzan, Mikey Ambrose (73’ Chris McCann, Leandro Gonazalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst, Franco Escobar, Jeff Larentowicz, Julian Gressel, Ezequiel Barco (90’+2’ Kevin Kratz), Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba (84’ Brandon Vazquez), Josef Matinez
Substitutes: Alec Kann, Sal Zizzo, Andrew Carleton, Romario Williams
GOALS / ASSISTS
58’ ATL – Josef Martinez (PK)
76’ ATL – Hector Villalba (Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez)
YELLOW / RED CARDS
19’ ATL – YELLOW – Michael Parkhurst (Unsporting behavior)
21’ PHI – YELLOW – Mark McKenzie (Unsporting behavior)
57’ PHI – YELLOW – Andre Blake (Unsporting behavior)
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports