Brenden Aaronson had himself one heck of a day. The 18-year-old homegrown from Medford, N.J. got his first start for the Philadelphia Union, and scored the lone goal in a 1-1 tie against the defending MLS champions Atlanta United.
Aaronson, starting in place of the suspended Marco Fabián, scored the first goal in open play for the Union this season, taking a shot outside of the box that took a deflection off of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and found its way into the back of the net.
The Union were forced to make a change at the number 10 position after Fabián received a straight red in the previous match against Sporting Kansas City. Still trying to figure out who fits into the diamond, Jim Curtin went with Warren Creavalle to play alongside Alejandro Bedoya.
We got ☝️ guy cracking his first ever Starting XI, and another making his 175th appearance and tying @sebastienLeToux's franchise record tonight! @AaronsonBrenden | @RayGaddis | #DOOP | #ThisIsPhilly pic.twitter.com/79f5hOu9PX— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) March 17, 2019
Aaronson looked comfortable from the start of the match, earning a corner kick within the first minute of the game. His work rate was clearly something to highlight, as he pressed Atlanta for his entire spell on the pitch, something that gave the Union a slightly different look and feel. His first opportunity came in the 21st minute when Alejandro Bedoya ripped a cross in front of the Atlanta goal and Aaronson was inches away from putting the Union up 1-0. On the same play, Brad Guzan would take a knock and come up with a black eye.
While all of the focus was on Aaronson, the Union squad managed to put together a highlight reel of their worst quality, finishing. Strikers Fafa Picault and Cory Burke, paired together for the third straight game, found it difficult to put shots on target (and not into the second level of Mercedes Benz Stadium). Fafa Picault started the trend early, lofting a shot over the bar after slipping behind the Atlanta defense in the 4th minute, and Cory Burke did the same in the 34th minute.
Picault’s best chance came in the 40th minute, when he caught up to a through ball from Aaronson and managed to dance around Brad Guzan, but took a weak shot that ended up being blocked by Miles Robinson, who dominated the back line for Atlanta the entire match.
After the half, the legend of Brenden Aaronson was born:
The Union now up 1-0, needed to simply hold onto the lead, and nearly gave it up when Josef Martinez created a chance that could’ve been a Goal of the Year candidate had Blake not been there to stop the bicycle kick attempt.
Six minutes later, the Union defense would finally be broken down, when Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin failed to mark their players, and Ezequiel Barco, who had just come on as a substitute, found himself with a free header in the box to tie the game up at 1.
Both Philadelphia and Atlanta would squander opportunities late, with Fafa failing to finish another chance in the box in the 88th minute, and a Medunjanin free kick that went over the bar in the final minute of stoppage time. The whistle would blow seconds later and the Union would capture their first point of the season in Atlanta.
Philadelphia now returns home for a Saturday matchup against Columbus Crew at 7:30 p.m. in Talen Energy Stadium. This match will include the return of Fabián from suspension and potentially the debut of Jamiro Montiero, who looks to help tidy up the diamond. Both teams will be short-handed with international call-ups, which for the Union includes Blake, Burke, Creavalle and backup left back Matt Real.