For more than an hour, it looked like the Philadelphia Union were going to outlast a swarming Atlanta United side desperate for an equalizing goal. Even after Josh Yaro’s 52nd-minute red card left his side shorthanded for the remainder of the second half, the Union held strong. Until the first minute of second-half stoppage time, that is.
With the Union just moments away from claiming their first win in their last four games, Tyrone Mears struck. The right back, who had come on 15 minutes earlier, saw Andre Blake parry a save right into his path. Rather than gather and shoot, Mears attempted an audacious, 16-yard header that looped over a scrambling Blake.
“[It] feels like crap, honestly. It’s so frustrating,” said Union captain Alejandro Bedoya at the podium about dropping points in stoppage time for the second time in a week. Much like the game in San Jose, the Union held a 2-1 lead for an extended period of time only to lose it just before the final whistle.
In the 18th minute, Roland Alberg scored the first of those two goals. After a botched clearance from Atlanta, Giliano Wijnaldum sent his fellow Dutchmen in on net with a beautiful volleyed through ball. Alberg brought the ball down with his chest and poked it past Brad Guzan to put the Union up 1-0.
Just five minutes later, the captain collected his first goal of the season. On an Alberg corner kick, rookie Jack Elliott used leapt above two Atlanta defenders to flick the ball to the back post. Bedoya was waiting there in space and hit a beautiful bicycle kick into the net to double the Union lead.
The multi-goal lead was very short-lived in this fast-paced first half. Just three minutes after Bedoya’s tally, Atlanta came right back down the field to cut the deficit in half. On a short corner, USMNT left back Greg Garza found Josef Martinez, whose diving header bounced into the path of Yamil Asad. The young winger rifled his shot into the roof of the net to bring the scoreline to 2-1.
What a strike— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) August 26, 2017
Josef's header is perfect and Yamil only needs one touch! pic.twitter.com/w0RzplBH3J
Despite it being the inaugural matchup between the expansion side Atlanta and the Union, the match played very open throughout the 90 minutes as each team had a plethora of excellent chances to score.
In addition to the openness of the match, the game’s physicality was apparent from the start. There were 19 fouls called in just the first 45 minutes, including three yellow cards to Alejandro Bedoya, CJ Sapong, and Josef Martinez.
That rough play continued well into the second half. Just seven minutes after the break, Union center back Josh Yaro received his marching orders for bringing down Josef Martinez. The forward was in on goal when Yaro pulled him down, giving referee Drew Fischer a very easy call to make.
With the tie, the Union are still only five points out of sixth place. However, nearly every other team fighting for the last playoff spot has multiple games in hand over the Union. The sixth and seventh place teams, Atlanta United and Montreal Impact, have three games in hand themselves.
The Union will desperately try to salvage their season when they travel to Minnesota on September 9th after a two-week break.