The Eastern Conference leaders expected a tough and physical contest against the Georgian side that saw itself outside the playoff spots with just a few matches remaining and got just that. Playing in front of their home fans where they had only lost three of their 22 contests at home, Atlanta United enjoyed most of the possession in the first half and the Union and their stingy defense were up for the challenge. Nine minutes after the opening whistle, homegrown Jack McGlynn made a key tackle in the box after the Five Stripes attempted a quick switch of play into the box to set up a chance by Luiz Araújo.
The quick attacks kept coming as Olivier Mbaizo and McGlynn combined on the flank in the 15th minute with the homegrown finding space to send a cross to the far post intended by Mikael Uhre but the Danish forward couldn’t connect. Atlanta too went with a long ball chance as they sought to send Dom Dwyer in on goal. With just two-time MLS Goalkeeper Andre Blake to beat, the forward attempted to chip the keeper but was in double trouble with the shot landing atop the Union goal and signaled offside. Atlanta kept its foot on the offense and saw a long range blast from Thiago Almada from the top of the box rocket just wide of the Union net.
The Union got the employ their quick attack in the 28th minute as McGlynn threaded a pass centrally to leading scorer Daniel Gazdag in the Atlanta side of the pitch. The Hungarian teed up a pass to Julian Carranza into the box but the forward’s shot would skip wide.
With halftime looming, Atlanta sought one more creative attack against the leader’s best defensive side as once again Araújo found space with nifty footwork to get some space out wide. Seeing that the forward was looking pick out a late run into the box at the far post, Blake was perfectly positioned to cut out the chance.
With a shutout in the first half, the Union defense turned in another Best XI moment in the 50th minute with all out performances from Blake and center back Jakob Glesnes. After forcing a turnover at the center line, Araújo raced up the flank and picked out a pass into the path of Brooks Lennon. One on one against Blake, the wing back rushed a shot as Jack Elliott pressured him but the Jamaican keeper made the diving stop to his right. The rebound fell directly into the path for Dwyer on the counter attack run but his tap in effort was turned away with a sliding stop by Glesnes. Frustrated once, the ATL forward was left wondering how he didn’t score as the second rebound in his path was tapped by the Union defender to Blake down on the turf to end the play.
Both sides showed their intent to chase for all three points with offensively minded substitutes in the 66th minute as Cory Burke enters for the Boys in Blue while Ronaldo Cisneros and Edwin Mosquera joined into the attack for the Five Stripes. Mosquera quickly showed off his pace on the flank within seconds of taking to the pitch but Elliott was there to shut down an attempt by the Colombian.
It was end to end action just past the 70th minute as Mikael Uhre took a long ball from Glesnes and cut into the Atlanta box. Patiently waiting for an option to open up, the Danish international ripped a low shot with his left foot that crashed off the post and was signaled offside.
Like he did in 2021 during the road leg of the Concacaf Champions League contest against Atlanta, Andre Blake was called upon to make another key save for the Union and delivered. Once more it was Mosquera getting inside but unlike his first attempt, he was ready to fire quickly only to be denied by the best keeper in the league.
Atlanta kept on pushing and were denied by the post as well in the 76th minute as Amar Sejdic saw his right-footed shot ring off the post. Both sides turned to their bench for reinforcements as Harriel entered for some fresh legs on the defensive end while Josef Martinez joined into the attack for the Five Stripes.
The Union gave the defense some relief with just minutes to go into the match as they sought to take all three points on the road but McGlynn’s through ball to Gazdag was called offside.
As the match reached second half stoppage time, Atlanta found its all-time leading goalscorer at the door step but Brick Wall Blake was there for the reaction stop to keep Josef Martinez from unlocking the tied scoreline.
Philadelphia Union takes to the pitch one more time in September as they host Liga MX side C.F. Pachuca for an international friendly on Saturday, September 24th. The Boys in Blue will take on the Mexican side that sits third place in the Apertura with 28 points through 15 league matches. Kick off from Subaru Park is set for 6 p.m. ET on Saturday with tickets available for purchase by clicking here.