Union match reports

Match report: Atlanta United 2-0 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Philadelphia Union’s six-match unbeaten run against Atlanta United came to an end on Sunday afternoon, as goals from Thiago Almada and Brooks Lennon fired the Five Stripes to a 2-0 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

With Kai Wagner missing out through injury, Jim Curtin — who reportedly signed a contract extension over the weekend — shuffled his deck a bit. The Union lined up in a 3-5-2, with Nathan Harriel coming in for Wagner as the left center back. Midfielder Leon Flach shifted out to left wing back, leaving Jose Martinez and Alejandro Bedoya in the middle of the park.

It didn’t take long after the rare Sunday afternoon kickoff for Atlanta United to take the lead through superstar Thiago Almada. A long ball toward striker Giorgos Giakoumakis caused a foul from Harriel; originally given as a penalty, a VAR check changed the call to a free kick just outside the box. Almada blasted the free kick into the wall, but the rebound fell nicely, and the Argentine unleashed a fierce volley that bent away from the keeper and into the back of the net. There was nothing Joe Bendik could do.

Atlanta controlled the play through the first twenty minutes. They switched play effectively against a Union side that looked uncomfortable in the wide areas. Flach and Harriel, the makeshift left line, seemed particularly lost. The individual defensive work, though, remained strong; the likes of Jose Martinez, Harriel, and Julian Carranza all put in excellent 1-v-1 challenges.

Giakoumakis, who’d been a thorn in the Union’s side through the first 25 minutes, went down with a non-contact injury, forcing Gonzalo Pineda into an early and unwelcome substitution. Miguel Berry came on as the Greek attacker headed to the locker room.

Around the same time, Curtin seemed to scrap the 3-5-2, moving Harriel out to left back and Flach into the midfield in the more familiar 4-4-2 formation. While the Union stabilized, Atlanta still had some quality chances, with Bendik called into action to stop a few shots.

Philly went into halftime with work to do.

Bedoya pushed into wider positions in the second half, and found some early joy against the likes of Caleb Wiley down the wing. One move toward Brad Guzan’s goal scared Bedoya’s old international teammate, but the shot was hit well wide of goal.

The game settled into a stalemate, which suited the hosts. With about 20 minutes to go, Curtin threw on the Homegrown tandem of Quinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn, hoping for a spark. Moments later, a long free kick from McGlynn caused chaos in the box, with Flach’s shot ultimately going high and wide. Joaquin Torres, too, joined the attack.

But it would be Atlanta who’d get the second goal. They worked the ball deep on a counter attack, then circulated it to Almada at the corner of the box. The playmaker fired an excellent pass to Brooks Lennon, open in space on the other side of the box. Lennon’s shot went right through Bendik’s five-hole and into the back of the net.

The Union didn’t give up, trying to get one goal back. Harriel pounced on a bad giveaway and slalomed into the box, ultimately hitting his shot too high.

When the final whistle blew, Philadelphia sat fifth in the Eastern Conference Table, ten points back of league leaders FC Cincinnati with 14 games to play in the MLS season.

The Union travel cross-country for next weekend’s match, a clash with bottom-feeder Los Angeles Galaxy. Kickoff from Dignity Health Sports Park is at 10:30 p.m.

Three Points
  • Replacing Wagner. There’s no great option when Kai is injured, but Curtin’s choice to use Leon Flach as a left wing back was a bit galaxy-brained. It took barely half an hour to scrap the initial game plan.
  • Thiago Almada. The Argentine may be the best player in MLS, and he showed his quality on Sunday afternoon. It was a genuine treat to watch Jose Martinez defending him.
  • Toothless. Atlanta this season are a team that ships goals willy-nilly, but the Union didn’t seriously challenge Brad Guzan. A disappointing showing from the attacking group.

Philadelphia Union 

Joe Bendik, Olivier Mbaizo, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Nathan Harriel, Leon Flach, Jose Martinez (Joaquin Torres 77′), Alejandro Bedoya (Jack McGlynn 72′), Daniel Gazdag, Mikael Uhre (Quinn Sullivan 72′), Julian Carranza

Unused subs: Holden Trent, Matt Real, Brandan Craig, Andres Perea, Jesus Bueno, Chris Donovan

Atlanta United

Brad Guzan, Brooks Lennon, Ronald Hernandez, Juanjo Purata, Luis Abram, Caleb Wiley (Andrew Gutman 86′), Franco Ibarra (Santiago Sosa 86′), Amar Sejdic (Osvaldo Alonso 86′), Thiago Almada, Machop Chol (Tyler Wolff 63′), Giorgos Giakoumakis (Miguel Berry 30′)

Unused subs: Quentin Westberg, Noah Cobb, Aiden McFadden, Matheus Rossetto

Scoring Summary

ATL: Thiago Almada — 7′
ATL: Brooks Lennon — 79′ (Thiago Almada)

Discipline Summary

PHI: Nathan Harriel — 4′ (foul)
PHI: Julian Carranza — 48′ (foul)
PHI: Mikael Uhre — 65′ (foul)
ATL: Amar Sejdic — 70′ (foul)
ATL: Franco Ibarra — 75′ (foul)
PHI: Joaquin Torres — 90+3′ (dissent)

ATL Statistic PHI ATL Statistic PHI


Possession % 50.7 42 Duels Won 38
14 Shots 14 8 Tackles Won



Shots on Goal 1 1 Saves 5
6 Blocked Shots 8 15 Clearances



Total Passes 324 10 Fouls 14
76.6 Pass Accuracy % 80.6 2 Yellow Cards



Corners 3 0 Red Cards 0
10 Crosses 19 .7 xG







  1. *Jim outsmarted himself with the formation at the start. The game was over almost before it started.

    *It seemed nobody told Harriel what the game plan was for today…he looked totally lost.

    *One shot on goal…1. Against a totally shit keeper like Guzzy.

    *On top of all that, screwed consistently by the Monkey’s Unkel.

    Pretty depressing stuff. Galaxy next, they looked somewhat alive last night, although after El Traffico on Tuesday who knows what shape they will be in.

  2. philsoc8 says:

    It’s amazing how everyone is critical of every Union player but Gazdag gets a pass. Over and over this season we’ve seen teams take him out of the game, negating the chance creation that Uhre lives for.

  3. Awful game all around. From Curtin’s formation to the Union’s insistence to play through balls with heavy touches on the carpet surface being the main issues for me. There’s other issues of course, but don’t waste too much time dwelling on this loss. I don’t think the Union will have to deal with playing on turf, at least not on the near future I believe. It really makes a difference in my opinion.

    The FOX broadcast is piss-poor (no surprise), but even moreso for them. I’m pretty sure they showed the wrong records at the beginning of the game for both teams. And whoever makes the decision to show replays should be instantly fired. You don’t wait 5-10 seconds till after the play and then show the replay. You cue it instantly so you don’t miss the live action!

    • Hurts to say this, but it wasn’t Fox’s fault…Apple is responsible for all the broadcast feeds. And they (Apple) still aren’t up to the job. The commentary was good, however, even though Danny goes to too-great lengths not to be accused of favoring his home team.

  4. Deez Nuggs says:

    I hate games where you feel like you’ve got to beat the ref before you can even get to playing the game. There were any number of bad calls and most seemed unfair to the U. Need to see a replay, but I’m sure I saw an Atlanta handball in the box. I also saw Carranza get hauled down, but the team didn’t complain as much as I did. And that first call was the start… penalty?? Seriously?? I’m not even convinced it was a foul.
    Also, I thought Lennon was offside on his goal.
    But here we have problem 2. What was with the broadcast? Such a poor quality broadcast. The camera was often behind the play. Even the graphics were wrong. Before the game they got the team stats swapped. They had the names reversed on one of the subs (Sosa). Wtf?
    Frustrated. But I honestly did not expect a win for this one. Too many missing pieces and we suck on turf.

    • UnitedPenn13 says:

      If you’re talking about the Fox broadcast commentators, they weren’t great but they were better than the Apple+ MLS commentators.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        Not the commentators. The rest of the broadcast. The technical stuff.

      • Fox’s twosome were better than Danny H and Steve Cangi? Doubtful.
        Also, MLS is producing all of the games, and is paying all of the on and off air staff.

  5. Murphthesurf says:

    Ref, turf, formation, sleepy looking play, inability to connect in the final third, why did we trade the other goalie, boy do I hope Jamaica gets knocked out early and Kai heals fast !

  6. el Pachyderm says:

    Missed it with the dumb ass MLB start time. Can’t say I’m bummed.

  7. FCDelco fella says:

    Didn’t watch, don’t care. As long as no one’s hurt it’s fine. In 2023 I should have to watch mls games on plastic…. So lame.

  8. Pathetic, lethargic, poor display all around…

  9. PaulContinuum23 says:

    Union lose 48 hours after Curtin is rumored to get a 2-year extension.
    Not the best timing, no?

  10. Joe Bendik is NOT an MLS goalie. Make him a coach and call up the 2 youngsters now.
    And all I have to say about last night’s game…..

    Really Jim?
    Great job.

    • Tim Jones says:

      JFav, please find the tape of Holden Trent’s first pro match. He displayed acute “I-am-tentative-itis.” He’s gotten over it at that level, but it did not breed confidence that he would stand out the first time at the next higher level.
      And remember, for all of us the instinctive standard of comparison is the only three-time goalkeeper of the year in MLS history.

      • If you’ve read my postings, Blake has generated an untenable situation because of his skills. We can’t develop any back ups.

        So why not start now?

        Tanner drafted that kid #1. Why?

        He hadn’t drafted anyone in how many years?

        Why NOT give those kids a shot? Is Bendik our future? NO. He’s not even our present.

      • Did not see any of his playing time. Nor the other kid, Rick I think is his name.

        I will watch, but it’s not relevant. He has to play sometime, he was our #1 draft pick.

        Tanner never picked anyone, I think. Why this guy #1.

        Let him play!

  11. Ted Unkle must have stayed in a sh’tty hotel in Atlanta too. It seems when he travels anywhere, he doesn’t get enough sleep, obviously.

    Has to be MLS’s hotel choice that makes him so terrible at his job.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Didn’t get to watch the game live (and didn’t bother to watch on replay), but I love that comment!

  12. When our front three go missing, they really go missing. I think the effort was there, but the connections really were not. There were runs and crosses, but nothing approaching a decent attempt to finish. Too often, Uhre and Carranza go down soft looking for fouls. Not to clear Unkle of a pretty uneven performance, but I think our guys have developed reputations that aren’t entirely undeserved. Atlanta succeeded in making us play rather than counter, and we weren’t so good at it. It’s always the weakness with our game. I thought we might have ben able to do something to switch the game with a 4-2-3-1, which I think was what Curtin tried to do bringing in Torres, but it was too late. And Martinez was clearly needed to keep the margin to a goal. That was a performance I’d rather forget.

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