Union / Union match reports

Match report: Atlanta United 0-0 Philadelphia Union

Photo credit: Marjorie Elzey

Despite play that got extremely heated at times and nearly one hundred minutes on the field, neither team was able to pull ahead Saturday afternoon as the Philadelphia Union traveled to Georgia to face Atlanta United.

Headlines started before the game on Saturday afternoon when Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda chose to bench both his star strikers. Josef Martínez is in the middle of an ongoing public feud with the Atlanta front office, but the fact that Chivas de Guadalajara loanee Ronaldo Cisneros also didn’t get the start suggest it was at least partially a tactical decision.

And that tactical decision showed promise once the whistle blew. The early game was defined by Atlanta controlling the flow of the game, with the home team dominating possession, shots, and set piece opportunities in the first twenty minutes. There was also some early drama as Atlanta forward Dom Dwyer chafed under the defensive attentions of first Dániel Gazdag and then José Martínez. Things came to a head then quickly simmered down after Julián Carranza made head-to-head contact with an Atlanta player.

Chippy play continued throughout the half, but outside one Thiago Almada shot the home team failed to ever create a truly threatening chance and the teams returned to their locker rooms with the score still zero-zero.

Early in the second half Atlanta should have scored a goal as Andre Blake failed to control the rebound from a Dom Dwyer shot. Jakob Glesnes provided a cheeky assist in keeping the ball out of the goal, and Dwyer was visibly stunned at his own inability to get the ball past two of the league’s best defensive players. After that a Santiago Sosa shot from just outside the box caught Blake flat footed but it hit the far post harmlessly, and ricocheted so far from the goal that it wasn’t even a threat on the rebound.

In stoppage time Nate Harriel failed to stay goal side of Josef Martínez and the Venezuelan had an open header right in front of goal. Luckily Andre Blake was up to the challenge and kept the initial shot out of the goal before Jack Elliott cleared the rebound preventing any Atlanta player from taking a second chance.

In total six minutes of stoppage time were added at the end off second half, but it wasn’t enough to find a difference between to the sides and the game ended in a scoreless draw.

Three points
  • Andre Blake: The ascendance of the Union backline has hidden the Jamaican’s light under a bushel to a certain extent. But he showed he was still the shot-stopping superhero we all fell in love with, denying Atlanta of goals they rightly expected to score.
  • The midfield isn’t flawless: Whether it was the absence of Alejandro Bedoya or the sub-optimal playing surface in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Union midfield struggled to assert themselves in the game. And that lack of control is directly related to how Atlanta controlled much of the pace and direction of the game.
  • UniMás/Twitter broadcasts are less than ideal: Between the less than user-friendly Twitter interface, the interesting pronunciation decisions of TUDN’s English-language broadcasters, stream quality issues, and a supposedly neutral national broadcast that felt anything but, any MLS team deserves better than what was offered on Saturday by the league’s chosen broadcast partners.

Philadelphia Union: Andre Blake; Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo (Nate Harriel 77′); José Martínez, Leon Flach, Jack McGlynn, Dániel Gazdag; Mikael Uhre (Chris Donovan 87′), Julián Carranza (Cory Burke 67′) Unused subs: Matt Real, Joe Bendik, Paxten Aaronson, Branden Craig, Quinn Sullivan, Jesús Bueno

Atlanta United: Raúl Gudiño; Andrew Gutman, Alan Franco, Juan José Purata, Ronald Hernández (Josef Martínez 78′) ; Thiago Almada, Santiago Sosa, Amar Sejdić (Matheus Rossetto 78′); Luiz Araújo (Edwin Mosquera 68′), Dom Dwyer (Ronaldo Cisneros 68′), Brooks Lennon Unused subs: Franco Ibarra, George Campbell, Caleb Wiley, Rocco Ríos Novo, Marcelino Moreno

Scoring summary


Misconduct summary

PHI – Julián Carranza (Foul)11’

ATL –  Amar Sejdić (Foul) 49′

ATL – Juan José Purata (Foul) 62′

PHI – José Martínez (Dissent) 73’

PHI – Dániel Gazdag (Not Retreating) 90+7’

ATL Statistic PHI ATL Statistic PHI


Possession % 40.3 51 Duels Won 71
16 Shots 5 7 Tackles Won



Shots on Goal 0 0 Saves 2
3 Blocked Shots 2 15 Clearances



Total Passes 323 13 Fouls 17
86.3 Pass Accuracy % 73.1 2 Yellow Cards



Corners 2 0 Red Cards 0
22 Crosses 15 1.3 xG







  1. We haven’t seen that look from the union in while, though it’s still a little too familiar.

  2. If McGlyn had any foot speed at all, he’d be an all star. But no.

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    I’ll take the point. Atlanta on that turf is never an easy transition …nor is it safe. I think they escaped mostly okay- we’ll see about Corey.
    The onus was on Atlanta to put one of those wonky opportunities into the net and they couldn’t. Just the kind of point the defense earns and the goalkeeper assures. I’m glad Jim sat Mbazio. I’d still take Harriel over him. Too many times Mbazio tries his best to gift the other team.
    In other news, if you are Quinn Sullivan you have to be thinking- “what in the actual hell is going on.”
    Jim brings on Chris Donovan who is only slightly faster then Jack McGlynn while QS sits on the bench as a player who has actually scored in this league… some beauts too.
    I don’t get it nor, will I why some players I rate– aren’t rated by Jim Curtin.
    Whatever. Onward.

    • I’m thinking you haven’t watched many Union II games. Donovan has speed. It’s the strongest part of his game. Unfortunately his best chance was slowed down when he got tangled with his own man at midfield and then slipped on the turf.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Could be, Andy.
        He didn’t look very fast though running on to that beautiful pass from Corey Burke which got him in behind.. I would guarantee with 100% certainty- Quinn Sullivan is faster too.
        As for Union 2. You are correct. Union games and roughly 6-8 hours a week watching my kiddo footy rules it out at this juncture.
        Be well.

      • I guess it’s acceptable that your kids take priority over Union II 🙂 :-).
        Sullivan is definitely better with the ball and has a better shot but Donovan probably has more pure foot speed. I think it’s probably 50/50 as to which one made more sense given that any chances were likely to come on the break rather than any sort of controlled buildup.
        Good luck to your kids if they are playing this weekend.

    • Notice who was NOT available as the reserve goalkeeper, Freese. And notice that the usual late game relief mids were none of them used.
      Whether this guess has much chance of being correct I doubt, instinctively. But it is possible that Real, Craig, Bueno, Aaronson and Sullivan are on a plane early tomorrow morning for Boston and Foxborough for Union II’s must win match against New England II.
      I doubt it, but it is possible.

      • As soon as I saw the lineup, I assumed Freese was with Union II. I’m thinking they are on a plane this evening (along with Donovan).

      • WE will find out later today.
        given what I saw in commercial schedules, I suspect the plane was crack of dawn this morning, even if it is Atlanta airport.

      • It just hit me, Real and Bueno were probably on a plane headed for Boston or Providence, but Craig, Aaronson, Sullivan, and McGlynn were on a plane headed south to Mexico City getting ready for the game against Peru Wednesday.
        (And when I just checked the lineup, none of them are there, nor is Bueno. Freese, Donovan, Real, and Harriel are all starting).

    • Agree with one of the latter points, Elephant. I was baffled to see Donovan come in instead of Sullivan, and I don’t know why Quinn has to do to get more looks from Jim. It’s a little weird.

    • I think the explanation is simple. Curtin rank Quinn as a midfielder, and he was replacing forwards.

  4. PaulContinuum22 says:

    CONCACAF Champions League qualification assured with the draw. That’s something.
    Shield will go down to the last minute of the last weekend.

    • Will someone please explain how the Union qualified for CCL?

      • The Supporters Shield winner gets one spot. The regular season winner of the other conference gets another. However, Canadian teams cannot qualify via the MLS, they can only qualify via the Canadian Cup (US Open Cup equivalent). If Montreal wins the east, the spot goes to the American based team with the most points. The draw means LAFC is the only American based team who can finish ahead of the Union. Therefore, they will get a spot.

      • Just to build on Andy’s point, if the two conference winners are Montreal and LAFC, the next best record who hasn’t qualified will get the spot vacated by Montreal. We needed the point to mathematically clinch over Austin.

        So it will be Orlando, LAFC, the U, and the MLS Cup winner.

        And if MLS Cup is won by one of those three teams (or some Mounties) then Austin goes (absent a collapse where one of the NY teams or Dallas catches them).

      • Thank you!

  5. How many corners was played in the first half

  6. MLS needs to get rid of artificial turf and baseball stadiums if it wants to be taken seriously as a league. The number of players who went down with no contact was ridiculous. Mostly Union players but also Atlanta players.
    Unfortunately, LAfC is now in control of the shield and has 2 of their last 3 at home where they have the league’s best home record (38 points in 15 games compared to 38 points in 16 games for the Union).

    • Agreed, but I doubt MLS will ban turf and baseball diamonds anytime soon.
      . . .
      The team struggled with the turf not only on slippage but also ball handling. Ball speed and bounces were misjudged for lots of sloppy play.
      . . .
      Do you or anyone else know if the team has access to an artificial surface to train upon for away turf matches? If not then they should get access to one.

    • Arthur Blank has billions of dollars. He will get anything he wants from the league, the way Robert Krapf used to and sometimes still does.
      GArber will say the words you want, but he will not enforce them. The fact that England and Scotland, with wetter in-season climates provide grass pitches that are immaculate is irrelevant.
      MLS’s underlying finances are still too dependent on huge entrance fees from expansion, I suspect.

      • John P. O'Donnell says:

        They play in a multipurpose stadium with the NFL Atlanta Falcons. Share a stadium and it’s usually turf.

      • MLS can keep the turf/baseball stadiums, but they have to realize that is long as they do, they won’t be considered a top or middle tier league.

    • Even the English language announcer called out the turf as “home field advantage “.

  7. OneManWolfpack says:

    Given the season, this team is had, I’m choosing to take the positive out of this:
    Obviously not a great performance offensively. With that said, the defense was absolutely ridiculous, including Blake, but again, obviously. People saying Curtin played for the tie is ridiculous. I think he played for the tie late once he realized it wasn’t gonna happen. Getting out of there with a draw was incredibly impressive and while it’s not ideal for the Shield, it’s certainly hasn’t excluded them from winning it.
    They have locked up champions league, which is impressive. They still have a shot at the Shield which is impressive, and if Montreal doesn’t win or draw tonight, they clinch first in the East… which again is impressive.
    This team needed a game like this every game isn’t going to be 5 or 6-1. For now… Let’s go Houston.

    • As far as the shield goes, a draw or a loss are essentially the same if they can win their last two. In either case, LAFC needs to win out in order to finish ahead. (Obviously if the Union drop more points, it will make a difference.) So I trust Curtin was never really playing for the draw.
      Also, a Montreal draw tonight wins the conference for the Union.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Oh nice. I thought Montreal had to win or draw. So they have to win. Then to that I say, go New England as well.

  8. Chris Gibbons says:

    A classic “the other team is trying to win too” game. Take the point, don’t get hurt, come back and lock up the conference/shield.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Agree on this. Atlanta gets paid too.

      • Atlanta gets paid much more than the Union 🙂 (which is probably necessary to get them to play half their games on that shitty field likely shortening many of their careers).

    • FCdelcofella says:

      Totally agree. I knew this match would be tough. I HATE turf fields at this level. It’s hard to imagine that in 2022 there are still mls teams playing on turf fields. Didn’t the mlb show us how much better grass is when they started building new stadiums in the 90’s…? I couldn’t care less about the supporters shield. I want to be MLS Champions!

  9. PaulContinuum22 says:

    MLS.com says a Montreal draw OR loss to NE seals #1 in the East to the U.

    • And it’s scoreless at halftime.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Sadly Montreal won 1-0 🙁
        Need just one point next week to clinch the East, right?

      • They need 2 points to clinch the east since Montreal wins the tiebreaker (a tie means Montreal has 20 wins to the Union’s 18).

    • Montreal got the win. Union still need 2 more points.

      • Montreal also have currently below the line Miami on the road and last place DC at home for their remaining matches, so it compares to our final remaining schedule.
        . . .
        We win the Shield with two wins, but if we choke and backslide then we likely won’t even finish first in the East. We truly are the masters of our own destiny now.

      • Even if the Union win their last two, they don’t win the shield if LAFC wins their last three (wins is the first tiebreaker rather than goal differential…again, MLS has joke rules compared to the rest of the world).
        Also, they only need one win or two draws in their last two to finish ahead of Montreal so there is a little room for error.

  10. CCL was the good news. Giving LAFC a better Shield chance was the bad news. I wonder how Curtin will handle the Pachuca friendly.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      No starter should play more than 20-30 mins. Not even remotely worth it

      • Not sure they have enough warm bodies on defense for Elliott and/or Glesnes to not get significant time given that Craig will be away with the U-20’s.

      • No matter what, it’s probably better that the Toronto game means something (either for Eastern Conf or Supporters Shield) since we wouldn’t play till the 20th or 23rd of October anyway, assuming we get the bye…Toronto is horrid on defense if you’ve seen them lately. So even if we fail in Charlotte to get a win, I’m very confident they’ll get the W against Toronto.

    • I make it nine first-teamers away during the international break.
      Federztions not going to the World Cup are still playing friendlies during the break, and the US U20s are going to Mexico for the Revelations Cup.
      If Jamaica have kissed and made up with Blake, then Blake with Jamaica, Mbaizo with Cameroon, Martinez with Venezuela for two matches in Europe, Gazdag with Hungary, and probably Uhre with Denmark. Craig, McGlynn, Sullivan and Aaronson will be in Mexico. .
      And those nine are only the first half of the problem. IF — repeat — IF, Union II qualify for the the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs, they will play next Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, creating two professional matches to be played at best within 24 hours of each other, and at worst simultaneously in two different places.
      Staffing the Pachuca game and a U II playoff game becomes a challenge with nine first-team players unavailable and a tenth not yet arrived as far as we know from West Africa. Further complicating matters, I think I know that Academy amateurs cannot play against Pachuca as Mexican professional teams may violate the terms of the Academy amateurs contracts.
      The Pachuca game is visually sold out judging by ticket availability on the Union’s website, so it will be played. It will probably be an away match played in Chester in terms of atmosphere
      I want Union II to make their playoffs, but doing so will create future challenges.

      • Hopefully no ass-hole related deaths in the city afterwards too. There I said it.
        True though.

      • For a while today it looked like Union II would move all the way up to second and get to host a playoff game next week but Toronto got 2 late goals to beat Orlando so the Union II will be in Toronto.
        If they had finished second I was going to suggest to my ticket rep that they try to make the game a doubleheader with the Pachuca game but alas…

      • Ali Curtis in MLS NEXT Pro vice-president of competition, or some such title.
        He used to be the equivalent of Sporting Director for Red Bull NY, so may have no sympathy for Philadelphia’s needs. He knows we all hate Red Bull.

  11. Atlanta has good players and were desperate for points. Away, on turf, this was never going to be easy, and a point was probably always a decent result. Obviously, after watching it go down, a point seems like an even better result since the Union created no real chances of note and rode their luck and incredible Blake saves and last ditch defending to save the draw.
    The game really highlights how important home field advantage is in this league compared to others around the world. Much greater travel times combined with wildly varying surface quality (and size if you factor in NYC). One more win takes care of Montreal, while we need LAFC to drop something (which they’ve done a lot of lately) to ensure the Union have the full backing of Subaru Park through the playoffs.
    The Pachuca friendly is a no-win situation for Curtin. Ideally, the guys would use it to get some game time in an off-week and keep the intensity up a little. But Jim will catch hell if anyone picks up a knock, or God forbid something more serious that would require missed time. Don’t envy him going into that one. Just hoping everyone gets a solid run in and stays healthy.

  12. Jim, thank you for calling out the broadcast, which sucked as much as the game. Streaming was awful, commentary absurdly biased. Made me look forward to Apple taking charge of it all next season.

    As for the game itself, I’m disappointed, since that is a team in turmoil who could’ve been beaten. But at least half our squad — the back half — was sensational.

    • If you think that the Twitter feed was biased, you should have heard the Atlanta radio broadcast that I heard for most of the second half via Sirius XM while I was driving before I could catch the last 15′ + 6′ via Twitter. They minimized Atlanta’s fouls, accused the U. of time-wasting, holding. They called out the ref for inconsistency, etc. They did, however, acknowledge that Andre Blake was “world class” which the MOTM was. From what I saw of the refereeing, I thought this was one of the better performances (an admittedly low bar, however). Atlanta has been an historically difficult place for the U. to play (although perhaps not as bad as Dallas), so a draw is a decent result.

      • I mean I expect a hometown broadcast team to be somewhat biased. Especially Atlanta, since they are catering to asshole Atlanta fans. But for a national broadcast I expect better.

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