Julian Carranza netted goals in each half as Philadelphia Union secured its spot in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Semifinals with a 2-2 road draw against Atlas FC.
With the result the Union earned 3-2 aggregate victory against the Liga MX side to advance set up a riveting rematch of the 2022 MLS Cup after LAFC defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps by a 6-0 aggregate margin.
In his press conference in the lead up to the match, Head Coach Jim Curtin said that the squad would come on out on the front foot and push for an important away goal if the situation presented itself. The first came within 30 seconds as the Union were quick to recover possession on a clearance and went direct. Daniel Gazdag flicked a quick pass to homegrown Jack McGlynn as he drifted to the left side. McGlynn with his dynamic left boot sent a cross to the back post where team captain Alejandro Bedoya made a run but couldn’t get a touch.
The Union settled into a defensive block to force Atlas to the wide positions to get an attack started. The host got their first chance even up the aggregate score in the seventh minute, as Jeremy Márquez regained possession after blocking McGlynn clearance and unleashed a hard shot that missed the back post.
Philly earned the first set piece of the evening as Gazdag drew a foul centrally to get Kai Wagner onto the ball. Wagner went for the far post with a left-footed free kick and Atlas opted to concede the opening corner. With the ball at the corner flag, McGlynn lofted an in-swinging cross that connected with Julian Carranza but jostling with the defender saw little power and accuracy on the attempt.
In the 11th minute Atlas FC got the tying goal for the series with the dangerous Julian Quinones converting on the counter. Knowing the forward is the heartbeat of the squad and a focal point for the Union defense, Quinones got possession out wide and drew center back Jakob Glesnes.
Quinones quick counter to drag Glesnes out wide. With the 2022 MLS Defender of the Year out of position, Jack Elliott had to set up as Atlas’ midfielder Ozziel Herrera collected a direct pass at the top of the box. Quinones bolted to the top of the box and blazing shot on the grass that snuck inside the bottom corner.
With Estadio Jalisco on their feet and cheering on the home side, Atlas sought a second goal quickly to capitalize on the momentum. Herrera found space at the edge of the Union’s 18 going 1v1 against Wagner before firing a left-footed shot on the ground that Andre Blake saved.
The first save of the night got the Union settled back into the contest and went into attacking mode with the team earning another corner kick chance. McGlynn’s service again was right where Philly would want it with a pair of clearances ending up back with the Union. Glesnes collected possession on the third attempt and with a long range curler that went directly to the keeper.
Carranza timed his pressing cue right on the money in the 22nd minute to start putting the Atlas defense on the back foot, earning a free kick chance after Nervo went through the Union forward. Mikael Uhre turned on the pressing a few moments later as well, racing into the offensive zone but seeing his shot attempt blocked by the defender.
Philly its major moment in the 28th minute with a quick attack pulled back by Oliver Mbaizo to allow for more players to join into the attack. Resetting the play with a pair of passes, McGlynn ended up on the ball and floated a work of art over the Atlas defense that kissed off the boot of Carranza. Making the deft touch to regain control, the Argentinian got his feet into position and struck the ball into the ground to bounce it over the keeper. The Union celebration was quickly paused with the assistant referee racing his flag for an offside call that garnered many the cheer from the home fans. Less than a minute later, the celebrations were back on for the Boys in Blue as the Video Assistant Referee clearly confirmed Carranza timed his run perfectly to make it a 1-1 contest.
Needing two goals to book their ticket to the CCL Semifinals, Atlas went right back to their playmaker Quinones directly. Firing a volley completely over the entire midfield, the Julio Furch flicked the volley to the Peruvian who got inside of Glesnes and raced into the box. Blake closed down the angle with two steps forward as the Atlas striker lined up for the goal and made the reaction save in the 35th minute.
Moments later again it was Quinones back on the ball but the Union defense made a pair of key blocks. Seeing the space on the opposite side of the field, Quinones sent a pass wide to outside back Diego Barbosa and then raced into the box. Atlas defender sent a hard cross right back to the forward but Glesnes’ boot got the ball first to clear it to the top of the box. Jeremy Márquez chested it down and had a go from long range but rang it off Mbaizo.
The Union nearly made it a 2-1 contest just before the first half clock had reached the 45th minute. Again McGlynn was involved with the homegrown getting space on the left side to which he threaded a hard cross on the ground that connected with a back post run for Uhre. Pressured from behind as he raced to the post for the tap in saw a missed chance as the shot went over the bar.
After nearly conceding, Atlas regained momentum with a first-half stoppage time goal from Furch. The Liga MX side went direct to the Union’s left side where Herrera cut inside the box. With Blake having to protect the near post, Furch ran to the goal line and finished off the cross that snuck under Blake to sent the home side into the break up 2-1.
Curtin was forced into a change at the break with Wagner only able to complete 45 minutes in his return from a hamstring injury with the left back making way for Nathan Harriel. The homegrown was put under mixer early with the hosts blasting forward passes to get into 1v1 situations. With Mbaizo on a yellow card from the first half, Atlas went at the Cameroonian for their attacks but couldn’t break through early.
With Atlas needing a third to overcome the Union’s road goal, Philly had the freedom to attack on the counter to try and put the match away. In the 61st Uhre led the charge only to see his shot blocked at the top of the box. Moments later it was the goalscoring Carranza leading a 3v3 charge but contact ended his opportunity for a potential second goal.
Leon Flach entered in the match just past the hour mark to help tighten the Union defense, reliving McGlynn. Eight minutes later with Mbaizo teetering on a possible second yellow, homegrown Matt Real entered to preserve the lead.
The best defense in a hostile environment was another burst of offense and that’s what Carranza delivered in the 78th minute. Just like on the opening goal, the left side of the Union’s diamond was a key factor with Flach showcasing that Philly hustle to keep a ball in play and make the blind pass to Uhre. The Dane turned forward and launched a charge at Atlas’ center back pairing. Pulling the defender in, Carranza snuck in behind and tucked home a right-footed blast over the keeper. With bits of déjà vu, the offside flag was raised once again. And like clockwork VAR found the goal was indeed onside.
The Union saw out the final 10+ minutes with little fright outside a headed blast from Quinones near the penalty spot that ranged wide of the post.
Philadelphia Union continues its seesaw of matches as they return to league play for a second showdown against Chicago Fire FC. Kick off from the Windy City is set for 8:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 15th with the match broadcast exclusively on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app.