MLS / Union / Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-0 Atlanta United

photo: Stephen Speer

Philadelphia Union defeated a listless Atlanta United side 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at Subaru Park. Kacper Przybylko scored the only goal of the game, turning home from close range after a delightful move from Jose Martinez down the right side.

Atlanta entered the match as the hottest team in MLS, but star striker Josef Martinez was ruled out with a knee injury and the visitors never really got a foothold in the match.

Jim Curtin made two changes to the team that defeated Orlando last weekend. Alejandro Bedoya and Cory Burke both missed out due to injuries and were replaced by Daniel Gazdag and Sergio Santos respectively. Gazdag started at the top of the diamond with Jamiro Monteiro sliding out to the right side.

The Union would have an opportunity to open the scoring in just the 5th minute. Sergio Santos latched onto a loose ball 20 yards from goal and drove into the box, but his shot was too close to Brad Guzan and the goalkeeper put out a strong hand.

Philadelphia dominated the first half, finishing with 12 shots (5 on goal). Santos would head just wide in the 32nd minute. Kacper Przybylko and Daniel Gazdag would both have close range shots saved in the 37th minute. Jose Martinez had a series of woeful shots from distance throughout the half.

Guzan made another strong save to deny Jack Elliott in the 62nd minute. The center back drove into the box with a late run, but his shot was again too close to the goalkeeper and Guzan smothered the attempt.

The Union would finally take the lead in the 70th minute. Jose Martinez did extremely well to dribble through two Atlanta defenders on the right side.  The midfielder drove down the end line, picked his head up and slid a perfect pass into the path of Przybylko, who fired first time into the lower left corner.

Philadelphia would see the match out with little resistance from Atlanta. The Union are next in action on Wednesday when they take the short trip up the New Jersey Turnpike to face New York Red Bulls (7:30 p.m).

Three Points

  • Job Done. The Union cooled the hottest team in MLS with a professional performance in a match that they thoroughly dominated. The defense was stout for 90 minutes and a moment of brilliance from Martinez to set up Przybylko secured a big three points.
  • Chances. The win was big, but the Union will be disappointed only scoring once. Brad Guzan was very good on the day, but the margin of victory should and could have been much more comfortable.
  • Individual Performances. Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes were both very good defensively and surprisingly involved with some great forays forward. Jose Martinez hit some woeful shots from distance in the first half, but rebounded with a terrific run to set up Przybylko’s goal. Daniel Gazdag continues to show skill in spits and spurts, but still doesn’t look up to speed with the rate of play. The Kids all did well off bench and closed out the game with ease.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Olivier Mbaizo, Jose Martinez (Jack McGlynn 78′), Leon Flach, Jamiro Monteiro, Daniel Gazdag (Paxten Aaronson 57′), Sergio Santos (Anthony Fontana 87′), Kacper Przybylko (Quin Sullivan 78′)
Subs: Joe Bendik, Alvas Powell, Stuart Findlay, Jesus Bueno, Davo

Atlanta United

Brad Guzan, Miles Robinson, Anton Walkes, George Campbell (Tyler Wolff 80′), Marcelino Moreno (Jackson Conway 69′), Santiago Sosa, Matheus Rossetto (Machop Chol 90+2′), George Bello (Jake Mulraney 69′), Brooks Lennon, Luiz Araujo, Ezequiel Barco
Subs: Alez DeJohn, Alec Kann, Mikey Ambrose, Ronald Hernandez, Mohammed Adams

Scoring Summary

PHL: Kacper Przybylko – 70′ (Martinez)

Disciplinary Summary

ATL: Marcelino Moreno – 31′ (foul)
PHL: Jose Martinez – 37′ (foul)


  1. I agree about Gazdag, he is slowly learning to work the spaces and is getting more comfortable with his team mates, but man he has a high number of missed back heels and under hit multiple passes to Montiero alone.

    Getting all three young HGs on the field to close out a close game against a good team says a lot about how far along Curtin sees them. I don’t think Curtin makes those subs even a month ago.

  2. Strong performance except for the usual issue finishing. Was especially happy to see Santos make it as long as he did considering his recent run of injuries.
    With their next three games against teams outside the playoffs, hopefully the Union can go on a run (although the Union will likely be shorthanded for the game at Cincinnati).

    • More than short-handed. Probably missing the same seven they were missing against New England, on Sept 3rd I think it may have been.
      Monteiro, Mbaizo, Gazdag, Martinez, Blake, Powell, Burke (if healthy enough).

  3. Gazdag clearly needs to build his endurance.
    I thought he was better at anticipating his press responsibilities on defense. But he is not yet a tireless defender.
    But the improved quickness of the press was noticeable, quite noticeable.
    Paxten Aaronson fit in with the other three midfield starters in the press quite well.
    After that the press began to breakdown more. But Atlanta’s will to fight had eroded.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    First. The goodness. A needed three points against a team playing well has them relevant again. So … well done.

    Now the truth. The team is so much more enjoyable to watch with the youth on the field. It’s startling how different the style and ideas did movement and work off the ball is.
    Now the painful truth they likely are afraid to admit in the Power Training Complex. This team is otherwise like watching on amputee trying to fondle an asexual Gibson onion with its phantom limb,
    They are so bad in the attacking third save the random moments when something crazy happens… like today.
    Let that image marinate like a garnish.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Oh how I have missed the elegance of an Elephant quote: “This team is otherwise like watching on amputee trying to fondle an asexual Gibson onion with its phantom limb,”
      **chef’s kiss**

    • Wracked Opinion says:

      El Pachy: you are indeed a “wordsmith” extraordinaire… LOL

  5. Atomic Spartan says:

    Long have we waited for some creativity and new ideas. Know what the antidote to doing the same thing to no avail Is? Do something completely new and unexpected. El Bruho turning inside along the goal line is not something any opposing coach or player has ever seen on any game film. And Kacper finally seems to have found his one-touch boots. Good on ya both.
    Love our D but there were enough shaky patches that the Stripes should have scored on. Proof that luck is a good thing to have when you’re not at your best.
    And Curtin has shown once again that when he has absolutely no alternative, he will actually play the kids, who looked more than capable of taking on a team like Atlanta. For my money, even after winning some hardware, the jury is still out on JC. Good coach, still learning, much room for improvement. But at least he shows when his back is against the wall, he’ll play the cards he has.

    • I think we’ll be able to make a better decision after the next two games. Assuming Bedoya and Burke are still out, will he start essentially the same front 6 in all 3 games or will he rotate. (I’m assuming that the plan is to start Blake and the back 4 in all 3 and I have no problem with that.)

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        I saw Burke in the Stadium Club with his knee in a brace and on crutches. I’m guessing he could miss a few weeks

    • Have to disagree with you on the defense. I thought the Union looked pretty comfortable the whole game. Six shots, only two on target, for a team that came in with 10 goals in their last three games. And for those who care about these sort of stats, expected goals of 0.2 for Atlanta. A pretty good day at the office for the Union back line against an offense that has a decent amount of talent and has been on a hot streak (albeit missing a key goal scorer).

  6. In Tanner We Trust says:

    This reminded me a lot of 2020, so many opportunities created that eventually one of them HAD to go in. Despite absences coming hopefully we can maintain momentum and go on a run. A home playoff game is looking pretty likely. In a rebuilding year, semis in the CL and a home playoff win is a pretty successful season. Obviously it would be amazing to win it all, but let’s stay cautiously optimistic after a good performance like this. Still much to improve and a better team could have exposed us. Play the kids, their pressure was the reason I wasn’t even mildly concerned about ATL stealing a point.

    • Remember about halfway through 2020, we stopped really worrying about losing or giving up a home draw in a game like this. You just assumed eventually something would go in, and it pretty always did. Nice to have that feeling back a bit.

    • Union are 3 points from being out of playoffs all together and have played 14 at home and only 11 on the road. I wouldn’t say a playoff game of any kind is pretty likely let alone a home playoff game. The 2 wins this week were an absolute must to stabilize things.

  7. 1. Counterpress was absolutely amazing. Smothered ATL whenever they got the ball. Flach was a particular standout in this regard.
    2. Glesnes’ & Elliott’s runs of the middle totally destabilize defenses. Need to keep using that.
    3. Martinez play for that assist was superb. His shots from distance were indeed woeful and he needs to stop.
    4. Gazdag, like the large majority of foreign transfers, will need this season to assist to the league & his teammates. Happens all the time. Would not write him off (though he’s not helping much right now).

    Overall a satisfying performance.

    • Elliott was man of the match for me. I thought Brujo had a great game, but I giggled incessantly when our center back dribbled the whole field, spun a defender, laid it off, got the return in the opposite box and put a shot on goal.

  8. To cap off a nice win, head over to Dirty South Soccer for the many comments. Grins aplenty.

  9. Chris Gibbons says:

    Nice to see Kacper get another. The thing about him is he’s really good when his midfield provides service (or, a good ball like the one Martinez gave him and not an aimless series of crosses into an 8-man bunker) and not so great when he has to go find a shot – that’s Sergio’s role. If the midfield plays like they did Saturday for the rest of the season, this is a dangerous team.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Great points, there’s no team in MLS that should scare us, it’s just a matter of playing our best when it matters. The only MLS team truly stopping us is us. We just stop ourselves quite often haha

  10. Montiero at 8, and Gazdag at the 10….pressure and chaos are created. The midfield Diamond was back in balance. They just need to work on that final ball in the final third and the goals will start going in. Keeping Santos healthy is a must. Such a difference when he is on the field.

  11. As woeful as Martinez’ shots were, i think they played an important part in a multifaceted offense we haven’t seen in a while

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *