Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 3 – 1 Atlanta United

Photo by Earl Gardner

On a spectacular night in Chester, the top two teams in the Eastern Conference put on a show for 18,510 fans in a packed Talen Energy Stadium, but it was Philadelphia Union that walked away Saturday with a stunning 3-1 comeback victory.

Kacper Pzylbylko and Sergio Santos combined on two late goals after Brenden Aaronson’s equalizer, as a rapturous crowd shook the stadium in a way not heard since the club’s early days.

The teams spent the first few minutes feeling each other out, neither pressing too high or getting too stuck in. In the 4th minute though, Josef Martinez almost beat Mark McKenzie through. The ensuing clipped clearance hovered above the recovering striker and he had himself a bicycle kick that went wide.

The intensity picked up from there, and both team’s attacking lines crept forward.

Minutes later, another half chance from Atlanta was undone by some recovery running from the Union defense and the stout foot of Jack Elliott. Pity Martinez fell like a pile of sticks at Elliott’s challenge, but match official Robert Sibiga was having none of it.

From a 10th minute throw in, Marco Fabian was unfortunate to only hit Atlanta’s woodwork. Kacper Pryzbylko provided the hold-up, and the Mexican international ran onto the ball and parried.

Partial chances abounded for both teams during the next 10 minutes, with passing errors and truly solid defending being their collective undoing. A Marco Fabian foul 30 yards from goal led to a free kick that Josef Martinez connected on with his head but was again wide.

It was a half-volley from a corner kick that got United another crack at goal. Again Josef Martinez’s shooting boots were loose, and his attempt skied over the bar. On the other end, Kacper Pryzbylko finished a Union counter attack by forcing Brad Guzan into a diving save.

The moment energized the Philadelphia crowd, and they were quickly rewarded with a Tiki-Taka goal from the Union of the highest quality. The heads of Medunjanin and Pryzbylko found Marco Fabian’s thigh, which found a running Pryzbylko in the give-and-go to slot the ball home. It was scrumptious soccer, objectively delectable, but the referee correctly ruled that Fabian was in an offside position when he was played, negating the goal.

Fabian soon slipped a racing Fafa Picault through in the 41st minute, a clear chance at goal and half a chance to cross the ball for an on-rushing Pryzbylko. The striker chose the former option, and his attempt nutmegging the Atlanta keeper was saved. Just minutes later, Pryzbylko struck the near post off a scramble.

The Union were poised to finish the first half on the front foot until some elite midfield play from Darlington Nagbe put the wildly overdue Josef Martinez in front of goal. His boots tied tightly, Martinez danced past a helpless Andre Blake and slid his shot home.

The goal was unfortunate and untimely, undoing a half’s worth of genuine quality from the home side.

The Union came out of the locker room flat and seeming anxious about conceding a second. Atlanta came out eager to find that proverbial coffin nail, but couldn’t first find their final ball.

A world class tackle from Jack Elliott in the 61st minute created a turnover in midfield. That led to a trademark clipped ball from Haris Medunjanin, one that finally unlocked the Atlanta back line. With both Brenden Aaronson running behind the defense onto the end of gem, it was the homegrown who slotted home the first time half-volley leveling the match at 1-1.

The Union were back and so was the crowd, and the home team began pounding on Atlanta’s door for the lead. The visitors were certainly not shaken however, and they were up to the Union challenge. What resulted was a war of attrition between half chances and chippy fouls, and those actions were the most either could say did for much of the second stanza.

It took until the 78th minute for Andre Blake to get involved again, blocking a rip from the onrushing Peaches. He was involved a second quick time after poorly judging a through ball and not communicating with Jack Elliott. The resulting uncovered pass gave Josef Martinez yet another gilded chance. The striker hit the post and then hit the deck, clutching his knee.

His apparent injury did not preclude him from participating in the remainder of the match.

The Union made attacking changes across the board, pushing for crucial conference points. The game was beginning to spread wide open, and the Snakes pounded.

It was an innocuous little chip by Kai Wagner over Atlanta’s flat line that found Santos’s diagonal run and got the Brazilian on the end line. As if on cue, Pryzbylko made a near post run of his own and blasted a first-time shot to the upper 90 that Guzan could only flap at.

Objectively delectable.

Moments later, the reverse combination made the scoreline 3-1, with Sergio Santos calm and collected in front of goal via Ilsinho and Pryzbylko to net the third goal. Talen Energy Stadium went nuts, with the elevated pulse of thousands. The comeback was complete and then some.

Some timely defending and some clock-killing is what ultimately finished Atlanta off, and the Union ran into the night in first place again.

Three thoughts

Here’s one thought that’s worth three:

The Union played with guile, verve, bite, and shape, all things prior iterations of the side have not done when the going got tough. They did all this toe-to-toe with the defending league champions and missing their captain. They won the most important match in franchise history, coming from behind.

That’s so Union.


Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis, Mark McKenzie, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner, Haris Medunjanin, Jamiro Monteiro, Brenden Aaronson (77′), Marco Fabian (85′), Fafa Piacult (57′), Kacper Prybzylko

Substitutes: RJ Allen, Joe Bendik, Ilsinho (57′), Sergio Santos (77′), Aurelien Collin, Andrew Wooten, Anthony Fontana (85′)

Atlanta United

Brad Guzan, Julian Gressel (57′), Jeff Larentowicz, Miles Robinson, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Darlington Nagbe, Emerson Hyndman, Eric Remedi, Josef Martinez, Dion Pereira (45′), Gonzalo Martinez (84′)

Substitutes: Justin Meram (45′), Hector Villalba (84′), Mohammed Adams, Alec Jann, Franco Escobar (57′), Florentin Pogba, Brandon Vazq’uez

Scoring Summary

ATL – Josef Martinez 45+’
PHI – Brendan Aaronson 61′
PHI – Kacper Pryzbylko 86′
PHI – Sergio Santos 88′

Discipline Summary

ATL – Eric Remedi 12′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI – Marco Fabian 77′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI – Sergio Santos 89′ (taking off shirt)


  1. This game. Ho. Lee. Cow. Watching it on TV you could hear the passion of the crowd. You could feel it! What a game. Congratulations Philadelphia Union. Every single player was electric. Awesome

  2. LOL loss? Hardly. Premature.
    and somebody fixed it quickly…screenshots are nice though

  3. Easily best played match of the season by the team. I can honestly say this is kinda of what I expected. Keep doubting people, please. I’ll be sitting here enjoying this wonderful ride.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    HUGE. Fucking Huge.

  5. Kacper has no right making that shot. Just a ridiculous one-time short-sided angle.
    It’s fun to matter in September.

  6. Perhaps the finest win in Union history. Glad to have been a part. Will proudly be voiceless at our men’s league game tomorrow morning 🙂

  7. John P. O'Donnell Jr. says:

    Amazing how a winning team can pack a stadium in Chester. It was funny but even as they gave up a goal at the worst time, I still thought this game had more to give, but that shot from Kacper, I mean, I think I almost knocked over the table when he scored jumping out of my seat. Sergio looked more controlled and what a time to get into the mix.

  8. World class strike from Kacper. Sublime.
    I think this game validates the past games. Even if they fall short in the playoffs, this is not the team of old. It will not be same old Union, falling short at the end. They are a contender with real grit.
    What’s the league record for come from behind wins in a season? Surely they broke it.

  9. That goal by Kacper… wow. Just wow.
    I couldn’t believe that he shot from there and I couldn’t believe that it went in. Unbelievable.

  10. What a win! I think that the last time when Talen reaches that fever pitch after multiple Union goals was when Danny Cruz scored a quick brace vs Seattle.

    • June 2019…….Against RBNY

      • Yeah, the Ilsinho vs. NYRB comeback win was up there. There was a RB fan sitting behind me being an obnoxious NYDB, and when Ilsinsho was subbed in, I heard him ask his buddy, “Who’s this guy?”

      • Yeah, right. How did I forget that? Never mind.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Yes…. shit hit the fan. The RB section was taunting Union for 50 minutes…. then they STFU.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        Was anyone in the 118 area? They were 2 rows behind us being obnoxious and saying let’s go giants and other nonsense. Then they left after the 3rd goal. So very sweet to watch them make a hasty exit.

  11. Congrats. Never backed down. Kept going for it, despite the turnovers. Some nervy moments? Yes. But they got it done in the end.
    Who saw Santos with this tonight? If you raise your hand, you are lying.
    Kacper’s finish.
    Ellliot was huge tonight… until the hospital pass.
    Big save by Blake.
    Big saves by the posts.
    BIG NOISE FROM THE FANS. Well done, all.

  12. Bryan Becker says:

    Make no mistake.. this was a playoff game in every way. Both teams played with heart and fire. Respect to the AU fans. You showed up and every one of you (I encountered) were top class. We had fun ribbing before and during the game.

    Union played for their lives and showed they really are one of the elite teams of the league. Yes, AU were playing on a short week. But the Union were also playing without their captain. They came together and defeated what was unquestionably the (other) best team in our division.

    2 Years ago the Eagles won, being the underdogs. I hope the MLS keeps underestimating this team.

  13. OneManWolfpack says:

    Come on man… this team is F’N legit. To come back and win is just other worldly. Beyond impressed. What an amazing night at Talen. Well done everyone. Well done Curtin for making the subs work. As a 10 year season ticket holder I am so god damn happy to have team that is solid… good… deep… and legit. So glad they went for it and didn’t shrink in the moment. Thank you. Now finish strong. What a night 🙂

  14. Tonight, as time ran out, I stood, leaned WAY back, and shook my fists at the sky while screaming until my throat felt raw.
    I didn’t come to soccer until later in my life, and I’ve been an STH for 7 years now. That was easily the best moment I’ve enjoyed at any level.
    What a thrill. What. A. Thrill.
    Why do you suffer and cheers the boys on through the valleys? Because the climb out is sprinkled with such moments as these.

  15. I made sure to attend this. Having made the trip to ATL 2 September’s ago, wanting to throw my shoe at Curtin leading a toothless team, this was vindication.
    Starting lineup, with Ale out, was good. The subs were better. That backline assist was in front of me. Incredible. I was expecting Santos to strip to his undies after his goal. Crowd likely eclipsed the two Open cup matches intensity. Too much nervous energy for them, while this one layered perfectly. There was confidence in the stands and on the pitch and all were rewarded.

  16. That was the most excited I have ever felt the crowd at a Union match, and I’ve been attending 4-5 matches a year for all 10 years. Just electric.

    I think Guzan is gonna be shaking his head about this match between giving one up through his legs and another near post. But that takes nothing away from Kacper’s shot, nor young Brendan’s run and shot. BTW, The Kid was brilliant again tonight. That’s 2 straight matches.

    Elliott had an excellent match as usual (with the one mistake). Gaddis had himself an excellent match. Wagner was his usual machine-like self. Medunjanin made some wonderful passes.

    But huge props for this victory have to go to Curtin, for putting out the right lineup in the right formation, for making excellent subs, and for the completely out-of-box decision to put Santos in the 18… and then bring him on.

    I am still in shock that we dropped 3 goals on Atlanta, one of the best defensive teams in MLS, the hottest team in MLS, and earned a come from behind victory, with panache. This is what you call a STATEMENT VICTORY.

    • PhilinWilmington says:


      To get a chance to work through LAFC, and to staunch a surging NYCFC… both at home.

      The playoff started last night, folks. Keep turning up.

  17. been following team since year 1. most significant win this season. this team has it all. talent depth and grit contributions from every player. former sj resident made my annual summer trip up from fla to see this one in person . well worth it. crowd was electric. players never let down entire match. philly deserves respect from mls talking heads.

  18. There were so many truly great things to talk about in that performance. But I just want to give a ton of credit to Curtin. He picked the right lineup and pushed all the right buttons. And he clearly has this team playing together. The locker room atmosphere seems like it’s perfect. This win should really carry the team through the rest of the schedule.

    Love Przbylko’s words on being ready for LAFC. Up the Union!

  19. Timothy Herring says:

    As we congratulate the Union on that victory, any sane and objective follower of futbol must readily acknowledge the following facts:

    1) Both teams’ overall play was mediocre for their abilities and poor compared to top place teams in other premier leagues of this world; it is frankly appalling to see so many poor passes, poor shots on goal, and other missed opportunities from what are billed as the top two teams in 1/2 of our US premier league;

    2) The Philadelphia Union is not in first place in the East division — when you adjust for games in hand and avg. PPG, the Union is rather in second place and NY FC is in 1st place. For an even more true table, i.e. one that does that and combines the East & West into one overall table (as all other premier leagues of this world do) the Union is in 3rd place.

    3) Yes this victory is to be celebrated, but we have been here or close to it many times before with this team.

    So, I suggest keeping expectations in check so that your dissapointment will be tempered at the end of the regular season then the end of the playoffs.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      ….One word for this post.
      Start the Fact Brigade on a different thread, on a different day – we’re all aware of the facts. Today is EMOTION DAY.

      • Timothy Herring says:

        Sorry, emotions are fine and even great sometimes — but they can never get in the way of facts.

        We need and deserve RESULTS for this team and for our US MNT. Anything less is blowhard BS.

        Atlanta has had 3 results (i.e. trophies) over the last 2.5 years — the Union have had 0 in 9.5 years. (It’s ok, be emotional about those facts).

    • Dude, I was at this match. Far from mediocre for their abilities, I think that, in fact, both teams played rather well. It’s just that:
      1) defensive effort (of pressing) matched offensive effort for much of the match;
      2) some people missed some good opportunities; but
      3) there were two REMARKABLE goals scored, one by each team.

      So I guess you and I were not watching the same match. And I was in the stands in 127, row K, so I had a perfect view.

      That’s my subjective view. Meanwhile, if you want pure objectivity, head over to fivethirtyeight.com where you will find that, with only 5 matches left to play in the season, using their ultra-fancy statistical model, the Union are LIKELY TO QUALIFY FOR CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE on the basis of the entire league’s performance.

      So, you wanna compare to “every other league around the world”? We are not the Man City of this league, man; we’re like freakin’ Everton. How do you think Everton would feel if they wound up the Prem season in 4th place and qualified for UEFA Champions League?? I think they’d be fucking thrilled. And so should you be, if you’re a true Union fan. This is easily the best season in franchise history; enjoy it.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Thanks for doing the leg work with this post.
        Tim- needs to go pound sand for about 18 hours.
        No one… and I mean no one has eviscerated this franchise more than me…Saturday after Saturday after Saturday after Shit Poor Soccer with no Vision Philosophy Plan… Tim shows up One Saturday Evening and is a blow hard about tempering excitement.
        I chose ….FuckAll….carefully.

      • Dude you are so right, that Everton comparison is perfect…..As for Tim, we all know this isn’t the fringing premier league or la liga dude, to come here and try to temper emotions with that fucking nonsense after that game and this season is utterly assigning..news flash we all already knew where we stand in world football we don’t need your ass to tell us

      • I’m pretty merciless on this club and I’m not even going there, great win last night. Haven”t heard Talen like that in awhile…….great stuff! Don”t be “that guy” at the party bruh! Please don”t start the whole “we aren”t the prem” crap…..everyone on this site already knows this.

      • Timothy Herring says:

        Dude, scottso:

        We were watching the same match and I had a much better seat than you: my couch at home. That seat had two distinct advantages: 1) because of the multiple cameras coverage I saw the game much better than you did, and 2) I did not give Jay Sugarman any more of my money.

        Speaking of which, yet another majoy mistake of the ownership of this team: why was this, one of the most important if not the most important reg season matches in Union history, not played at the Linc? Why are other matches not played at the Linc? Why has not Jay Sugarman not added 10 or 20,000 more seats to Talen Energy stadium? (They have the space.) After all the games over the years we have loyally filled that stadium, even while the Team played shitty, why is this not done? Answer: Jay Sugarman lines his pockets with our money. Yet another of many reasons that Atlanta owner Al Blank is a much better owner than Jay Sugarman.

      • Oooooooh, NOW I get it. Thank you “Tim”
        Tim has an “agenda”. (And a pretty pathetic and unrealistic one at that.)
        Carry on “Tim”!

      • Tim, why the F would I want to watch at the Linc? The link sucks for soccer matches. At Talen I’m so close I can see them sweat and hear them talking to each other. Moving all the STH around for the Linc would be a nightmare, plus I bought my seats because I like them.
        And I’m certainly no defender of Sugarman, but why would he increase the size of the stadium when five months ago you could almost read Union in the empty seats?
        There are all sorts of valid reasons to criticize Sugarman, but not these two.

      • Timothy Herring, if you think you see the game better at home than from a midfield seat in the stands, you’ve already established what kind of soccer fan you are: an ignorant one.

        I mean, “Why don’t they play games at the Linc?” FOR REAL?? Whatever, man.

      • Timothy Herring says:

        Harland: My agenda is for the Union to win an MLS Cup and the US MNT win a World Cup. I am so sorry you think that agenda is “pathetic.” What on earth is your agenda?

        Wbev and Scottso: If you cannot understand why it is important to play some matches at the Linc, or to expand Talen Energy Stadium, then I cannot help you. Do the math. Yes YOU can see the action closer at Talen — but think about others (many others) for change. Expand you horizons, think about the big picture. Do the math.

    • John P. O'Donnell Jr. says:

      In the beginning of the year this same point was made about Toronto….yet Toronto never passed the Union and faded. The Union are in first and until NYCFC win the games in hand which is never guaranteed.
      As for your other advise Debbie Downer, go live in your safe space as a Philadelphian I’m well aware that their are no guarantees in pro sports.

  20. O captain my captain crunch is gone says:

    What a game…. where to start. First cheers to the young men who sang the national anthem. I believe they are Chester residents… they seemed a bit nervous but who wouldn’t be in front of that crowd. I love Ashley but the boys did great in her absence. Btw, wtf is with the AU fans shouting during the SSB? Cheers to the guy who told them to stfu! I’ll buy that guy a pint.
    Best game of the year by the D. Ray especially worked his tail off. Mark, Kai and jack were awesome! Guys in the mid were tense for sure but they settled down and play great. Harris with a few pieces of brilliance to set up the goals. And young Brenden…. games like this could set him up for bigger and better things. I hope he stays with us.
    Kasper…. what more can you say? Got the game winner and set up the closer. Again brilliant. Only downer for me was Marco. He seemed absent to me. Had a few nice plays but didn’t really show
    Me too much. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, best/most clutch win in 10 years. (Red Bull win is right there too) And let’s see what they can do against the best team in the league two weeks from now. LETS GO U!!!!!!

    • Agree with almost everything here. I didn’t realize it was the Atlanta fans yelling weird stuff during the anthem. Those young singers were great.

      Marco did have that almost-goal in the 10th minute that went off the bar. Then he had some nice combo play with Ilsinho in the mid-second half. Otherwise, yeah, not a lot. He also made some stupid fouls that gave them nice free kicks, which he does a lot.

      It’s amazing to me that, if everyone is healthy, and we play a 4-4-2 (which I’m not sure we should do any more), the odd man out of the midfield, based on performance/chemistry, is Fabián.

    • Regarding SSB: Same thing Baltimore/DC area fans have been doing for decades when the SSB is played in their arenas (Yelling “O!” at “O’er the ramparts we watched”).
      The ATL fans yelled at “stripes” and “red”. Silly, but no biggie.
      No sillier than the SSB being played before every kind of game in the first place.

  21. Such an amazing win! The boys really pressured the ball extremely well. As good as Atlanta is, I’m not sure they faced suffocation like that all year.

    As much as I’d like to win the Eastern conference, NYCFC plays 3 games at home on their crappy field before the Union play again. But would 2nd be all that bad? That should be our goal. You’re guaranteed a 2nd home playoff game with a first round win. And that 2nd game would probably be a rematch against Atlanta. Getting way ahead of myself I know.

    • Stop routing like its last year, or any year before.


      • Uhh hello, never said I didn’t want first place. This is the best Union team EVER, no doubts at all. I hope that makes you feel better.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      I tend to agree. Even if they win out it still is not in their hands. The reality is… 2nd is the likely end point and that’s been the expectation by me as the Gold Cup wrapped up…. and Damn ‘that is DyNoMite.’
      This is a first or second place team. Period.

    • My benchmark for a truly successful season is… a berth in CONCACAF Champions League. And we could finish third in the conference and still get that. In fact, it’s not even a stretch.

      The main thing is for us to stay ahead of all the teams in the West not named LAFC on total points. If we do that, then there’s a good chance we’ll be in, even if NYC and Atlanta finish ahead of us.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        That would mean NYC would have to win the Cup if we don’t right? I understand ATL is already in.

      • No, it wouldn’t. You know how the 4 spots get assigned, right? Open Cup, Supporter’s Shield, MLS Cup, and the other division winner.

        But if one team takes MORE than one of those spots (or if one of the teams in one those spots is a Canadian team), then the next spot goes to the team with the next-best regular season record.

        So… Let’s say the Union finish in 3rd. The key issue is: do they have the 4th best record in the league (i.e. more points than anyone in the West besides LAFC)? Because if they do, then as long as the Cup is won by one of the 3 teams that finish ahead of them, the Union will be in.

        Think about it. LAFC and Atlanta are already in. Another spot would go to NYCFC, whether they finish 1st or 2nd in the division

        And what are the odds of MLS Cup being won by LAFC, NYCFC, Atlanta, or the Union themselves?? According to 538.com, it’s about 85%.

  22. I didn’t see this mentioned, but hats off to the ref for not enabling AU’s early flop and dive tactic, not calling undeserved fouls on us. They deployed that strategy with us successfully in the last two meetings. This time they were forced to earn a goal from run of play…and we smoked ‘em on both sides of the ball.

    McKensie showed well, Aaronson is gaining confidence. I can see Tanner calculating how to launch Fabián and use the money to keep Monteiro.

  23. In Curtin we trust???
    After last night… YES.

    Well played.

    Strogest performance in 11 seasons!!!! Ha!!!!

  24. Ok so I’m terribly late to the party here! Great win. Loved the crowds energy! Great fireworks. Its almost like the fireworks were scheduled to celebrate the U in first place and the great game and atmosphere! The young men singing the National anthem were great! Ashley Young better watch her back! Curtin pulled all the right strings. Kasper is a stud! Aaronson is starting to find his grove. Santos gets a 5er in the waistband for the strip tease! And I have no voice….still! Come on the U!!

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      I’ve screamed at sports so much over my life that it’s very rare that my voice gives out nowadays. It showed fatigue after the goal that was waved off, and in the 2nd half I lost my mind and voice, along with everyone else in the stadium not wearing red.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Ashley can sing though. She’s amazing. Those kids were awesome too. Just had to drop that in. 🙂

      • Ashley is still the go to hands down! Those young men were highlighted on the news last night. Nice job by the U to have them sing and kudos to the local news for putting them on the tube again!

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