Atlanta United made the journey up I-95 to take on the Philadelphia Union in the first ever matchup between the two Eastern Conference foes. But the Union could not hold a late lead, as they had to settle for a 2-2 with the expansion Atlanta franchise.
Jim Curtin made a handful of changes to his starting XI with Jack Elliott as the only player on the back line to keep his role after the team’s loss to Toronto FC midweek.
Goals came fast for both teams in the first half, with three combined goals during a less than ten minute stretch of time.
The Union struck first in the 18th minute with a goal from Roland Alberg. Keegan Rosenberry made an overlapping run to the right corner and played a cross into the box. Atlanta’s defense had trouble initially clearing it out of danger and Giliano Wijnaldum was able to loft a volley back in over their defensive line. Alberg timed his run to stay onside, took the ball down with his chest, then poked it past Brad Guzan for a 1-0 Union lead.
Five minutes later, the Union fans were again on their feet swinging their scarfs above their heads celebrating another goal. The home side earned a corner in the 23rd minute that was driven low and hard towards the near post. It was deflected by Elliott and flicked on to the back post. Alejandro Bedoya was able to track it down and with his back facing the goal, hit it over his shoulder and into the net.
Just a few moments later in the 26th minute, Atlanta United earned a corner that they were able to capitalize on as well. They played the ball short but once the cross came in, Josef Martinez was able to win a header and place it into the path of Yamil Asad. Asad rocketed his shot straight into the roof of the net.
Fouls were abundant during a chippy game, but one in particular stood out for obvious reasons. In the 52nd minute, Asad played a long through ball to Martinez. Winning the foot race versus the last defender, Josh Yaro, Martinez was pulled down by the Union player. Martinez had a clear goal scoring opportunity and the referee had no choice but to pull out the red card from his pocket and send Yaro off.
The Union seemed to have gutted out all three points playing down a man until deja vu struck. Just like their game the previous weekend against the San Jose Earthquakes, the Union gave up another late equalizer in stoppage time.
Atlanta FC crossed a ball in that Andre Blake came off his line to punch out. Not getting a clean hit on it, Blake’s clearance didn’t even leave the box. The Union players were caught ball watching and Tyrone Mears came running on to the ball unmarked and lofted a header over the top of an out-of-positioned Blake.
Another brutal blow to their playoff hopes, the Union sit five points out of a postseason slot and also have played a couple of more games then most of the teams ahead of them.
The Union have some extra time off to regroup before they head to TCF Bank Stadium to take on the other new expansion team, Minnesota United FC, on September 9 at 8:00PM.
(photos: mlssoccer.com, philadelphiaunion.com)