The final score was 1-1 on the night, but Philadelphia Union entered with a three-goal cushion and made history by advancing to the semifinals of the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
After sitting and countering in Atlanta, Jim Curtin sent his squad out to establish the tone early at home. The Union were on the front foot, and their high press generated a chance in the opening moments for Anthony Fontana. In the sixth minute the counter was on again as Jack Elliott blocked a ball intended for Josef Martinez and sent Jamiro Monteiro streaking the other way. The Cape Verde midfielder threaded a perfectly weighted pass to Sergio Santos in stride but the Brazilian’s shot squirmed inches wide of the far post.
The Union kept working and chance after chance rolled past Brad Guzan’s net. Alejandro Bedoya cut back at the endline and found Olivier Mbaizo for a scoring opportunity was pushed achingly wide. In the 17th minute the Boys in Blue again ran into open space the after defending an ATL corner but Leon Flach’s sighter from distance was saved.
With halftime looming, Atlanta finally ended the Union’s shutout streak when newly-acquired Santiago Sosa collected a pass from Marcelino Moreno with his back to goal and quickly turned into the box and beat Andre Blake at the far post.
Needing two more goals to get even on aggregate, Atlanta came out with some big punches but the Boys in Blue fought them off with Philly grit. Blake answered the test in the 55th to stop a scary shot from Moreno.
The Union stuck to their gameplan as they looked to capitalize when offensive opportunities presented themselves. One opportunity came off a set piece header from Jakob Glesnes that would not drop in time to land under the bar. Bedoya had a pair of chances of his own including a floated header that kissed the crossbar and bounced away.
Finally, the goal Philly deserved arrived. Cory Burke shed his defender just inside the center circle and raced onto Monteiro’s throughball. After corralling it in the corner, Burke hit a curling left-footed ground pass through three defenders. Przybylko controlled it with his left footed, waited for a small bounce, and left Brad Guzan in the familiar position of watch the ball fly past his shoulder.
The aggregate scoreline was 4-1, and Philly earned the right to move on to the semi-finals. Next, Jim Curtin leads his team to Soldier Field where they will face off against the Fire on May 8 on PHL17.