After a lifeless dressing down against LAFC, the Philadelphia Union followed it up with three more dropped points to MLS Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta United in a 2-0 loss as Josef Martinez continued his quest to make history with his 18th goal of the season.
With Haris Medunjanin returning from suspension, the Union played well in an exciting first half. Union winger Fafa Picault featured heavily in the Union’s gameplan as he gave Atlanta right back Franco Escobar fits through the first half. Despite both teams displaying spells of quality offense and possession through the first 45 minutes, neither one could find the opener.
In the 13th minute, Atlanta had one of the best chances of the first half when a counterattack, led by Atlanta forward Miguel Almiron, forced a beautiful stretching save to Andre Blake’s right.
Saves By Dre. #PHIvATL https://t.co/BBtcgOYmUP— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 7, 2018
The Union put up a valiant effort in an attempt to open up the scoring and start the game on the right foot. In the 39th minute, the much-maligned CJ Sapong did well to hold up the ball and feed it to Union number ten Borek Dockal. However, Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan made a stretching save of his own to deny Dockal of a long range goal.
Guzan says not today! #PHIvATL https://t.co/Q1HkLCvQDg— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 7, 2018
Atlanta marched right down the field toward the end of the half five minutes later and were denied a clear opportunity to head into half ahead. In the 45th minute of the half, Josef Martinez was turned away on a near-breakaway thanks to the heroics of Andre Blake once again. The Jamaican international logged six saves on the night in total.
45' + 1' - A sliding #SavesByDre...that's what we call "playing for the badge."— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) July 7, 2018
0-0 | #PHIvATL pic.twitter.com/bkCemm5v2v
It wouldn’t be until the cusp of two thirds through the match that Atlanta would finally break through. In the 58th minute, Blake made his only mistake of the night by taking down Miguel Almiron in the box on a breakaway. Blake was lucky to only receive a yellow card. Martinez would finally best Blake on the ensuing penalty kick to put Atlanta up 1-0.
From there on, the Union looked relatively lifeless in spite of only being down a goal. Atlanta looked in no part ready to concede a tying goal from that point on as the cream finally rose to the top.
To all but certainly kill off the match, Atlanta added a second goal in the 76th minute. The second goal of the game was a beautiful team goal that would make any soccer love swoon with delight as it ended with Almiron finding Hector Villalba on the back post to easily double the Atlanta lead.
Teamwork makes the dream work.— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 8, 2018
Beautiful stuff from @ATLUTD. 2-0! #PHIvATL https://t.co/CHQG07Zrn3
The stands would have likely been nearly empty after the second goal if not for the end of the match fireworks on a beautiful Saturday night as the Union looked in part nowhere near dangerous during much of the second half.
Referee Ismail Elfath blew his whistle 10 minutes later as the Union lost their third game at home this season. In total, this the Union’s fourth loss in their last five games with only six points earned in the last six.
The Union continued their theme of not taking advantage of dangerous opportunities. The Blue and Gold registered 18 shots total, but only three on net. The trend of stunning wastefulness such as only creating three legitimate chances on net out of the plethora of shots needs to turn around if the Union want to have any real chance about being in the playoff race.
Something has to change and quickly before the season becomes a lost one. The Union have a midweek meetup against Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Wednesday before taking on Eintracht Frankfurt next Saturday in a friendly.