Union match reports

Match report: Atlanta United 3-1 Philadelphia Union

The Union found a new way to lose on Saturday night — with a little help from referee Sorin Stoica.

An early penalty to Atlanta in the first half led to both Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin’s ejection for dissent, and a nine-man Union side saw a four-game winning streak snapped as they fell to Atlanta 3-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Coming off a midweek victory over Chicago Fire, Jim Curtin made four changes to his starting lineup. C.J. Sapong, Fafa Picault, and Marcus Epps returned to the lineup, replacing the ineffective David Accam and goal-scorers Ilsinho and Cory Burke. Fabinho and Ray Gaddis were preferred at fullback, with Keegan Rosenberry sliding to the bench for the first time this season.

Both teams got off to a jumpy, frenetic start. Alejandro Bedoya picked up a yellow card in the 11th minute for a professional foul on Darlington Nagbe racing through midfield — a seemingly minor plot point that, like Chekhov’s Gun, would turn out to be important later on.

One of the craziest sequences you’ll ever see in MLS played out just 10 minutes later. After a dreadful turnover 40 yards from goal by Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty brought down Josef Martinez, who was through on goal. The referee pointed to the spot, even though the contact was light and Martinez looked on first glance to be offside. Referee Sorin Stoica, however, did not utilize VAR to review the call.

Alejandro Bedoya, the Union’s captain, expressed his displeasure to Stoica, who brandished a yellow card for dissent — Bedoya’s second within the first twenty minutes. The ejection of Bedoya turned the usually sportsmanlike Haris Medunjanin from Bruce Banner into the Hulk. Medunjanin lost control, screaming at the referee from about three inches away and picking up two yellow cards before his teammates could separate him.

It was a dreadful refereeing performance from Stoica, who should have been able to diffuse the situation without dropping the Union to nine men. The Union, too, won’t be proud of the way they reacted to the situation. Martinez made no mistake with the penalty, blasting the ball past Andre Blake to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead.

Facing nearly 70 minutes of soccer down to nine men, Curtin swapped Borek Dockal for the industriousness of Warren Creavalle. The rest of the first half saw the Union put in a Herculean effort to keep wave after wave of Atlanta attacks at bay. Andre Blake made four first-half saves to keep the margin within one at halftime, and a dramatic save by the woodwork denied Julian Gressel at the stroke of halftime.

Atlanta kept swinging after halftime. Martinez almost had his brace after Blake failed to clear a sharp cross from substitute Mikey Ambrose. The Venezuelan attempted an audacious bicycle kick, but couldn’t keep it down.

Seconds later, Martinez got that second goal. Miguel Almiron got into a similar position and put a low cross into the six-yard box. The ball beat Blake and found Martinez for a point-blank one-time finish.

The Union didn’t concede defeat, and moments later had the game back within one goal. Off a free kick, the ball came to Warren Creavalle, who put a looping ball into the box. The ball fell to Picault, who took a touch and fired one between Brad Guzan’s legs.

Atlanta flowed forward, but couldn’t find the back of the net. A Josef Martinez chance caromed off the crossbar, while Blake did well to force Atlanta into difficult chances.

Josef Martinez picked up his fifth MLS hat trick in 34 games with a penalty in the 83rd minute. Attempting to block a cross, Fabinho flung his arms in the air and knocked the ball out of the air. A quick look at VAR confirmed that a penalty should be awarded, and Martinez blasted the ball past Blake from the spot.

The last dramatic moment of the match was an absolutely unreal save by Andre Blake after Brandon Vazquez got into the area with an open goal in front of him. Blake retreated at full speed, made himself big, and knocked Vazquez’s shot just past the post.

The Union were glad to hear the final whistle after over seventy minutes of soccer down two men. Next up for Philadelphia is an appearance in the U.S. Open Cup, hosting the Richmond Kickers on Tuesday night. Kickoff at Talen Energy Stadium is at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Three Points
  • Dissent-gate. Was it a penalty? Probably, but the referee’s choice not to even review the play or communicate with the Union’s captain was brutal. Once Stoica sent Bedoya off, you’d think Medunjanin could have done better to keep his cool. A mess all around.
  • Pride in defeat. It’s tough to take much away from a performance when you’re down to nine men. But credit the Union for only conceding a single goal from open play — and getting one of their own through Picault. A far cry from the prideless team that lost on the road to Dallas and Toronto earlier this season.
  • The week ahead. With Bedoya and Medunjanin suspended for a huge MLS clash on Friday against Toronto, the Union will need to rely on their squad depth to get through another two-match week. Will we see Derrick Jones, at long last?

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Fabinho, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty, Ray Gaddis, Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Borek Dockal (Warren Creavalle 23′), Marcus Epps (Ilsinho 56′), Fafa Picault, C.J Sapong (Cory Burke 67′)
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Anthony Fontana, Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliott

Atlanta United

Brad Guzan, Franco Escobar, Michael Parkhurst, Leandro González Pirez, Julian Gressel, Darlington Nagbe, Jeff Larentowicz, Chris McCann (Mikey Ambrose 45′), Miguel Almirón, Ezequiel Barco (Brandon Vazquez 76′), Josef Martínez (Romario Williams 84′)
Unused Subs: Alec Kann, Sal Zizzo, Kevin Kratz, Andrew Carleton

Scoring summary

ATL: Josef Martínez — 21′ (PK)
ATL: Josef Martínez — 49′ (Miguel Almirón, Mikey Ambrose)
PHI: Fafa Picault — 52′ (Warren Creavalle)
ATL: Josef Martínez — 83′ (PK)

Disciplinary summary

PHI: Alejandro Bedoya — 11′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Alejandro Bedoya — 19′ (dissent) (second yellow)
PHI: Haris Medunjanin — 19′ (dissent)
PHI: Haris Medunjanin — 19′ (dissent) (second yellow)
PHI: Fafa Picault — 28′ (dissent)

Philadelphia Union Atlanta United
 5 Shots 31
 1 Shots on Target  10
 4 Shots off Target 14
 0 Blocked Shots  7
3 Corner Kicks  6
 10 Crosses 18
 1 Offsides 3
 10 Fouls  9
 1 Yellow Cards  0
 2 Red Cards 0
 205 Total Passes  632
 70% Passing Accuracy 94%
25% Possession  75%
 50 Duels Won  43
 53.8% Duels Won %  46.2%
 15 Tackles Won  12
 6 Saves  0
 15 Clearances 8


  1. Lazlo Hollyfeld says:

    I don’t have a problem with the Trusty penalty call (it might have been a bit soft).
    I don’t have a problem with the cards to Medunjanin (he lost the plot, let’s be honest).
    I have a problem with the second card to Bedoya (or did he show a direct red?!). Regardless of whether that was a another delay on the PK or not, you do not show that card. Ref lost his cool on that one. This is why Haris got upset.
    Overall, the Union did well to keep it close, and I love the passion from Haris. Weird game.

    • Looked like a straight red, and it looked like the ref heard Bedoya say a ‘magic word’.

      • After the game Curtin (with other players confirming) said stoica had forgotten he already have bedoya a yellow when he gave him the second yellow then decided to go with it and wreck the game rather than admit he made a mistake

  2. Stoica is brutal. Another fine example of MLS refs lacking any quality what so ever. Good on the Union to keep it as close as it was.

  3. Union fan says:

    31 shots. 94% pass accuracy. 632 total passes. I’m going to guess some records for Union opponents set tonight. Good news, as you said, could see a game (or more?) of Fontana/Jones CM pairing!

  4. Well that’s one way for the league to get the golden team back in track…

  5. 11 men and a competent ref and the Union could win that game.

  6. pragmatist says:

    Well, it wasn’t boring…

  7. Whoda thunk Mark Geiger could be so easily replaced in the pantheon of dubious referees presented by MLS? That game was all about a ref being out of position on a tough call, and being embarrassed because he was going to see VAR proof of both his slow reaction and the missed offside. Well done to those that played tonight, but both Bedoya and Medunjanin know better than to give cause for ejection like they did.

  8. Light touch didn’t matter, he was offsides before that. The ref needs to be sanctioned for his lack of ability to do his job without loosing his cool. Union players where doing normal posturing prior to ref loosing his cool. This is a game to be played for the fans and the ref made it all about him. The MLS owners need to get this in control. Watch the Atlanta game from last week. There was a bunch of questionable calls. The bottom line is Atlanta is over rated but have huge turnout so MLS will turn a blind eye. They simply are not that good of a team and the Union proved that tonight. Playing with two men down the game was close for a better part of the game. Take the first PK away and get a proper ref and Atlanta looses, plan and simple. The yellow card against Fafa was another terrible and questionable call. The boys in blue stood up with honor, never gave up and showed they can beat Atlanta with a proper referee. MLS should be ashamed as this simply is not good soccer at their hand.

  9. John O'Donnell Jr says:

    Only got to see the end of the game and highlights but Harris Medunjanin losing his mind was something I think this team needs. Finally someone shows some grit. Also appreciate that last save by Blake after the ball goes out he heads right for Trusty and let’s him know he blew his assignment. Looks like lots of kids are going to be facing the champs on Friday for the Union.

  10. The Chopper says:

    The ref should have been able to diffuse all that without tossIng Bedoya. He is wearing the armband is generally a gentleman and is not going to push the envelope when he already has a yellows. I am sure that is why Medanjunin last st hs mind and that is so out of character for him. Love the passion, but that is inexcusable, as soon as het gets yellow he needs the get out of there even if his teammates have to tackle him.

    Love the grit by the guys on the pitch playing down 2. Will be an interesting midfield next match.

  11. Andy Muenz says:

    Penalty call wasn’t soft, it was downright horrific. Martinez had lost has balance on his own. Trusty kicked the ball between his legs and back to Blake. Martinez fell down. No penalty.
    Either Stoica was on the take or the league told him to do what he could to make sure Atlanta didn’t lose three in a row at home.
    It’s a good thing I’m not a manager. I would have just pulled the team off the field after 20 minutes (or maybe told everyone to get “hurt” and not be able to continue) and rested them for next week. Or maybe instructed them to start taking the kickoffs and shooting the ball into our own goal and make a mockery of the rest of the game.

    • Jason Moorehead says:

      Seemed petty when I thought it earlier, but after reading this, I’m interested in hearing more about this. Guys don’t need a training session (which 11 v 9 would have been). Take em off the field would have been a bold and interesting move.

      • I’m confident that Curtin would have faced steep fines if he had tried to take the team off the field and the Union would have been punished as well if they let him. I suspect the delay to return to the field after halftime was the limit of what Curtin thought he could do to express his displeasure with the ref while avoiding penalties for himself and the team. MLS is trying to put on a show for the entertainment of their fans and there is a lot of money at stake for all of these games.
        The game was over after that debacle (for both the ref and the Union) and the men on the field did a good job defending for their pride.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        If MLS is trying to put on that kind of show, why not make every game 11 on 9 in favor of the home team with a phantom penalty thrown in?
        If players start going down holding their hamstrings or quads and saying they can’t continue, what’s the league going to do about it? Maybe the Union could then have a team trip to get MRI’s done today and find that everyone is OK.

      • It wouldn’t have been ‘bold and interesting’, it would have been childish and petty. And would have had long-term ramifications. IMO, the club’s reaction to going down their two best players — basically shut down the most dynamic offense in the league, and SCORE A GOAL — was a much better message, and a much better lesson for the kids on the pitch.

    • Joel Pterasaur says:

      My take is that Atlanta has been loudly and publicly criticizing the refereeing of MLS. MLS gave them calls so they would stop calling out the refs publicly.

      • We as Philly fans have been doing that for years, I don’t remember the Union ever getting that treatment in return

      • Joel Pterasaur says:

        @Steve I meant the players and coach have been very vocal about the quality of MLS referees, not the fans. All team’s fans complain about refs.

    • Andy I was thinking almost the same thing about the same time. I turned to my dad and said, they should all just walk off the field. It’s only a three goal loss for a forfeit right? Show up the league for how mickey mouse it is.

  12. OneManWolfpack says:

    Absolutely embarrassing. Tons of credit to the Union for giving it hell till they ran out of gas at the end.
    The fact that the ref did what he did is just another shining example of why this league can’t take a step forward. There is no way it should’ve gotten to that point. To not even review the PK is horrific. Thats what VAR is there for. Then to instantly second yellow (or straight red) the captain?!? Come on man. Disgraceful. Haris only went full batshit cause of what developed. I mean I do love his emotion and I’m not sure I woulda been able to not lose it either. So I guess he’s gotta keep it together, but whatever.
    I really think 11 v 11 that woulda been a draw at worst. I love the way they’ve been playing and to immediately lose your midfield 20 mins in is just a impossible task.
    Another struggling team in Toronto comes in Friday and we’re minus Bedoya and Haris. Gonna be interesting.
    We can be a playoff team if we play the way we’ve been playing lately. I’m gonna chalk tonight up to getting MLS’d. Like someone said above – that’s a nice way to get their golden team back on track.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      One more thing – I’d practice with my starting 11 vs Richmond then pull a few guys off so they can get some time and be somewhat prepared for Friday.
      I’m so annoyed at that game. Damn…

    • I don’t have to give my opinion now, because I agree with all of this. The fact that the ultra-professional Haris — the guy who HELPED RESCIND AN OPPONENT’S RED CARD IN A GAME LAST YEAR — went ballistic is a sign of how unbelievably outrageous Stoica’s performance was. He should be suspended by PRO for this fiasco. I have honestly never been prouder of the team after a loss.

      • Final score: Atlanta 3- Stoica 2- Union 1.

        Haris did exactly what you say last year, but he has been around enough to know that MLS doesn’t have the quality referee that will remember a prior yellow card. (We expect it in youth and school leagues, but that concept is beyond MLS.) The boys played a higher level of soccer after the bad call than before, with imaginative and surprising runs and a refusal to abandon the offense. That was a great sign; let’s hope that they continue to do so later in the season.

  13. el Pachyderm says:

    Quite simply you cannot drop a team immediately to 9 men based on dissent. Colossal and egregious by all parties to be fair.
    I’m on the record for arguing refs are not to blame but it is a inexcusable performance by Yellow. He should be suspended like the players….
    Also Haris behavior totally abhorrent after the red.

    • I am on the record as saying ref blaming is a fan cop out; it’s lazy and tiresome.
      Should this ref have used VAR? I think so, but he didn’t. Once that ball is on the spot and the player lined up over it: SHUT. UP. AND. PLAY.
      Nothing is going to change the ref’s mind at that point. The league has been VERY specific about players surrounding and crowding refs, and touching is ALWAYS a no-no. I don’t care if the ref bent over and mooned them when he placed the ball. SHUT. UP. AND. PLAY.
      Indefensible lack of professionalism on the players’ part. ALL credit to the heart the team showed to try and claw their point back, incredible performance.

      • Matt Thornton says:

        Unpopular opinion, yet correct. MLS and FIFA in general need to institute two policies because the mass confrontation is out of control.

        1. Like Rugby, the ref needs to be mic’d for the viewers on TV, and the captain of each team should be the only person that is allowed to personally address the ref. What that leads to is transparency on what the ref is calling, and accountability for the captain to communicate professionally with the ref, even if there is disagreement.

        2. This has less to do with last nights game, but players trying to con the ref by writhing on the ground should be off the field for 3-5 minutes (I’ll leave some room for haggling over what time is appropriate) if they elect to receive treatment from the medical staff. 4th official should have the count and will allow the player back onto the field after the appropriate time has elapsed.

        Overall, you cannot lose your mind at the ref, no matter how stupid or unfair you perceive the call to be. Play with a little respect.

    • I say all the time to my son, “you don’t want the refs to blame, play better, don’t give them a reason to influence things” I’m not a fan of blaming refs. I’ll also say Madunjanin was out of hand and should get a couple game suspension. That being said this ref was horrible and let this get out of hand when it shouldn’t have been. He was antagonistic to trusty telling him “do you want me to give you a card” while miming reaching into his pocket. He got aggressive with the other players which is something a ref should never do. I don’t buy into the mls wanted ATL to win stuff, this ref was just sh#t.

    • Loved Haris’ behavior. MLS refs should be shown up more often. If you do your job badly, then someone should give you shit. If PRO or MLS won’t learn ’em, somebody has too. Respect is earned by the way. No shirt, uniform, gown or dress makes a damn bit of difference. Their shit still smells. So doing your job badly, is a poor way to earn respect. Stoica got shown up because he deserved it. Pure and simple.

  14. DisappointedFan says:

    This post and a number of articles floating around online are hilariously inaccurate regarding Bedoya’s sending off. The second yellow to Bedoya wasn’t “immediate” or “for adjusting his shin guard” as some have said. If you actually go and watch the whole sequence, you end up with the question “WTH was Bedoya thinking??” There had already been extended discussion and time wasting (not criticizing that). The ref finally gets everyone out of the box so the PK can be taken and then Bedoya deliberately steps back into the penalty arc. When you look at how he did it, it is hard to see how it could not be ‘deliberate encroachment as dissent’ which earns you a yellow card.

    Bedoya should have at least pretended he was still arguing with the referee. But he didn’t. Everyone is in position for the PK and he just casually steps into the arc and bends down to adjust his socks and shin guards. A player who deliberately delays a restart like that after everyone in position to take the restart is going to get a yellow. You’ve got to at least make it look like there’s some soccer reason why you’re encroaching, otherwise it’s basically just the player saying “screw you” to the ref.

    The only thing I can think of, in terms of WTH was he thinking, is that he thought he needed to delay the restart for VAR. But if that’s the case, then he needs better people to prepare him for games. All awarded PK’s are reviewed by the VAR official before the PK is taken.

    Further, it’s not the center’s decision whether to he needs to go look at the video (or even can). The VAR official has to determine it meets a certain standard first. Whether Stoica went and looked at video of the PK award was not up to him. So if you thought it met the standard to trigger a video look by the center, blame the VAR official, not Stoica.

    If you’re going to blame Stoica for anything, blame him for not remembering that Bedoya was already on a yellow. It seems pretty obvious he didn’t and that’s bad form. Refs aren’t supposed to act any differently when a player is already on a yellow, but we all know they generally do.

    But I don’t know what else Stoica was supposed to do. If he lets that sort of action go (when Bedoya doesn’t even try to disguise what he’s doing), that would be where he was setting the bar for the rest of the game and then he has to let that sort of thing go for the rest of the game. Players not backing off or standing in front of a ball right after the whistle for a free kick and making the referee walk off the distance and hold the restart for his whistle is one thing. But if the ref does all that AND then a player just walks up in front of the restart after the ref has everyone in place, we wouldn’t be surprised by the yellow. That’s what Bedoya did, just with a PK. Note that Stoica didn’t card anyone for all the arguing about the call and other rather deliberate attempts to delay the PK (again not criticizing) that took place after the call. And that’s what we expect. But after all that and when everyone has finally gotten into position for the PK, Bedoya just steps back in to stop the PK from being taken.

    Which raises the question again, WTH was Bedoya thinking? Surely he at least remembered that he was already on a yellow. Geez, get someone else to do it at least. Or at least try to disguise it as something. Don’t make it so blatantly obvious you’re just delaying the restart because you don’t like the call.

    I hated the fact that Philadelphia got two men sent off. I would much rather have seen a real game. I would much rather have seen Atlanta have to face a full-strength in-form team even if it meant a worse result for Atlanta. But each step of the way after the initial call, I don’t see how the Philadelphia players left Stoica any other options.

    • Atomic Spartan says:

      Stoica had an easy out alternative that would have defused everything without second yellow to Bedoya. He could have allowed the PK to continue and disallow a Blake save if the PK did not score. The second yellow was nit picking and against spirit of the game. Given the soft nature of the alleged foul, this alternative would have appeared more just, even if a PK retake failed. I seldom expect a high Geiger rating from Stoica when he refs the U and he overreacted this time as well.

    • A few points: (1) The broadcast did not show the events you describe. It showed the call, Union players asking for VAR, a number of replays, and then Bedoya getting a red card. I have heard this description from several sources post-game, and it sounds to me like Bedoya was trying to ensure that there was sufficient time for VAR to do the initial review. I guess technically that’s a delay of game, but is it really red-card worthy? I wonder how a ref that does not have Stojica’s history would have handled it.
      (2) You are only partially correct with the VAR statement. The VAR official does an initial review on all PKs, and then makes a recommendation to the head official. The head official does NOT HAVE to go look at the replay. VAR could have recommended a review, and Stojica could simply have refused. We have no way of knowing.
      (3) The penalty was soft, but to also be fair it was also not the softest penalty ever given either. Trusty got the ball first, and the back of the striker’s leg second. That could very well have been a no call, and very well been a penalty as well. It would be debatable either way. So, I don’t really blame Bedoya for trying to buy time to let the play be reviewed vs letting things move quickly and have review be precluded completely.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Biggest issue for me regarding the call of the PK itself was the fact that Martinez began tripping over the ball before Trusty even got there. It’s not like Trusty came from the back and trashed him. He went at the ball, and as you said, got ball first and leg second. Is it a penalty… I mean it was a soft foul in the box, so for me it’s a strong “maybe”. As said by many others it should’ve been at least reviewed and then we can bitch all we want… but the game goes on 11 v 11 and it’s 1-0 with 70 mins to play. All the BS that happened after with the 2 ejections was just MLS referees showing their inexperience and once again proving the league will never be a real league unless upgrades are made.

  15. Phil in Wilmington says:

    The team is showing Philly fight and is putting quality play in. Those of you that know me at all know I have been brutally tough on what has been poor quality. The union have my attention this season, and win or lose, the players are as a unit playing better soccer.

    In terms of the actual incident, I agree with those who say shut up and play, but to see medunjanin have that kind of fire in his belly (which professionalism doesn’t always reveal) told me loads about the heart of this team.

    I still think they need a coach that makes better in-match decisions regarding subs and match day lineups… But the guys who are out there are playing with heart and showing some technical ability that has been missing in seasons past, part of that has to be due to what happens in training and the locker room, so… For me, that counts more than wins and losses. If the quality is there day to day, results will come.

  16. I get what the rules say but I have watched a lot of mls since 2010 and I can say with confidence refereee just don’t do what that referee did. I want the referees to use similar discretion for all teams and it doesn’t feel that this is happening

  17. Watch it a couple times and you will see there is a bunch of things the ref should have done. They did shut up and play and the ref called it back again and made it about him. One of the Atlanta players was across the line at the same time Bedoya got his second yellow. The ref messed up, stop making excuses for them, if they can’t be professional and call the game properly than MLS will continue to be the joke and the European gereatric retirement league that it currently is. I watch a lot of different MLS games each weekend and can say Atlanta is clearly favored. Even when I am rooting for them to win I don’t agree with the calls. What the ref did was way out of norm for the rest of the league. Bottom line is there is no, consistency, which MLS needs to get in order or maybe they don’t want to. I have come to the point that a handful of games each week are useless to watch and I just turn them off. Until this gets fixed I am canceling my online subscription to watch games.

  18. No Contact No Penalty

    Martinez never had control of the ball. Trusty poked the ball from behind and Martinez trips over the ball and falls down. I saw no contact by Trusty. Watched the replay several times. Bad call from the start. Union were hosed by ref.

  19. The Truth says:

    Deflating result. With full strength I think the boys actually manage to get three points. What the hell happened down there? I’m hoping Bedoya’s big mouth will let slip the words exchanged in the scrum.

  20. The ref should be fired period. The red card on Bedoya could be warranted? He’s bedn known to lose it sometimes and he also makes bad fouls too. I have no idea. Seemed excessive on Harris. On the foul, Trusty got to the ball first before he made contact with the player. Almost all tackles have contact ! You can tell how the ball moved that Trusty made contact with the ball first. The ref should have used the VAR system just like he did with Fabi’s hand ball. On another note, Take Bedoya out and put in Creavalle. He was fantastic as unusual. Shutting down opponents plays in the midfield. Tracking back, actually creating offense as well. And he has had good ball control. I don’t understand what the Staff doesn’t see.

  21. John Harris says:

    I’ve thought for a while that the book in Sapong is that he flops. (And I think there is some truth to that.) It seems pretty clear to me that Martinez flops and that happened here. If nothing else good happens it of this, hopefully Martinez will start to get his just reputation.

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