The Philadelphia Union’s 3-0 Concacaf Champions League victory over Atlanta United was a game of two halves. Nearly every Union fan felt dejected after an extremely deflating first half performance. It looked like the Union had maintained their second half form against Inter Miami and were in for a long night in Atlanta.
Forty-five minutes later, however, the fanbase was singing a different tune after the Union stole a 3-0 victory from at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The first half was all Atlanta. From the kickoff to the whistle, it was clear who the better team was in the first 45. Atlanta flipped the script on the Union for the first time this season. Instead of Philadelphia being the team heavily pressing the opposition and moving the ball around well trying to break the opponent down, it was the hosts with the upperhand.
At the end of the half Atlanta United led the Union in every statistical category. They dominated possession with 60 percent of the ball. They had four corners to the Union’s 2, and 5 shots on goal to the Union’s 0. Atlanta led in clear chances and scoring opportunities on goal, but out of need Andre Blake proved why he is the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
The first big blow to the Union in the first half came in a Jose Martinez 7th minute yellow card. With his second yellow card in three matches, El Brujo will be suspended for the next leg at home against Atlanta due to yellow card accumulation. Both Martinez and Olivier Mbaizo would go down with injury in the first half, both were able to return to the pitch quickly.
Atlanta nearly jumped ahead in the 20th minute. Jurgen Damm found himself clear on goal on the right side of the box, only to be robbed by Blake. Blake’s next great save came in the 32nd minute off of a corner kick. The ball was sent to the outside of the box, where Emerson Hyndman powered a dangerous shot that was saved by Blake.
Blake would have two more big saves to end the first half, saving two breakaway opportunities created by Josef Martinez. It should’ve been at least 2-0 for Atlanta United going into the half. They had all of the opportunities, only to be thwarted by Andre Blake.
Atlanta United immediately put the pressure on in the second half, Blake making his 6th save of the night in only the 46th minute of the match. Against the run of play, the Union would steal an away goal.
Kacper Przybyłko found himself alone in the box unmarked in the 55th minute. His shot would be saved by a charging Brad Guzan, but a corner kick would result. A low cross meant for Jakob Glesnes at the near post managed to trickle past everyone, finding Przybyłko for the easy tap in at the far post. Despite dominating the entire game, Atlanta now found themselves down 1-0.
Reminiscent of their goal against Saprissa in the previous round, the Union took advantage of an Atlanta miscommunication in their own half. Sergio Santos found Leon Flach flying past the defense, who identified Przybyłko standing alone once again right outside of the box. Kacper would not miss this one, his brace putting Philadelphia up 2-0, giving them another vital away goal.
Kacper Przybyłko would have the opportunity to score a CCL hat trick in the 86th minute after catching Atlanta snoozing with a beautiful counter-attack, but the friendly striker instead opted to give newly subbed on Anthony Fontana the easy tap in goal to make it 3-0 Philadelphia.
The fans were shocked, as was the commentary booth at what they just witnessed. Philadelphia should not have been in this game come the second half. Atlanta United looked to have the Union dead in the water. Blake’s heroics kept the Union in the game for the first half, then the boys in blue did what they do best: scratch and claw their way to a victory. The Union hold a 3-0 lead, with three very crucial away goals, and will host Atlanta on May 4 at Subaru Park where they look to advance to the semifinals of the Concacaf Champions League.