With the first point of the season for the Union and the first open play goal, the Boys in Blue marched out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium with their heads held high last night.
Philadelphia kept up with the reigning MLS Cup Champions, even though Atlanta was able to hold on 71.4 percent of the possession of the ball. The Union came out to play deeper than what we have seen in the past few weeks, with the ability to absorb pressure from United and cause turnovers using their new diamond midfield formation.
With multiple counter attacks thorough the night, the strikers, Fafa Picault and Cory Burke, were unable to put the ball in the back of the net. The Union and the striking core still seem to be finding it difficult to score inside of the 18yard box, sending balls into the stands of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, or into the arms of Atlanta’s goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
The back line worked hard to keep the reigning Golden Boot winner and MVP Josef Martínez out of scoring position. The center backs were Jack Elliot and Auston Trusty, paired up again for the third straight game. Martinez was able to get behind the pair a few times throughout the night, but the frustrated forward just could not score.
In the 65th minute of the game, Martínez sized up an overhead bicycle kick just outside the six yard box. The shot, if he made it, would have been a beauty. The attempt was stopped with a reaching save from goal keeper Andre Blake.
Then there is Brenden Aaronson. The 18-year-old South Jersey native made the first MLS appearance and start of his career Sunday night. Taking the spot of suspended Marco Fabián, all eyes were on Aaronson and he did not disappoint, creating pressure on Atlanta’s defensive back line with pressing at the right time and winning balls to set up passes for the boys up top. His hard work paid off in the 47th minute of the game, taking a shot from over 18 yards out when he was given enough space from Atlanta’s defense. The shot went through a pair of legs and caught Brad Guzan wrong footed.
Atlanta was able to salvage a point at home in the 70th minute, when substitute Ezequiel Barco was able to get into the middle of the box and connect with a crossing ball to score the equalizer. This seems to be an ongoing issue for the Union, and one that teams are going to have on tape, when the midfield is unable to keep free runners marked in front of net.
With a few negatives to note through out the night, The Union and Jim Curtin, on the hot seat, are finding their shape. How did you think the Union played Sunday night? Rate the performances on our Community Player Ratings survey here or below.