Cann's Corner - MATCH RECAP: Union fight through two red cards, two penalties but fall short vs Atlanta United

Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez scored two penalty kicks and added a tap-in as his MLS record-tying hat-trick led ATL to a 3-1 win over Philadelphia Union at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday night. The Union played the final 71 minutes of the match with nine men after Captain Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin were sent off after referee Sorin Stoica called Auston Trusty for a foul on Martinez in the box.

The match began with Philadelphia looking to control the tempo while Atlanta sought to break whenever they recovered the ball in the Union half. After Borek Dockal was dispossessed in midfield in the third minute, defender Mark McKenzie took a perfect position to cut out a through-ball that could have put Martinez in alone.

Another turnover led to Bedoya’s first yellow card in the 10th minute of play. As Darlington Nagbe broke upfield, the Union Captain pulled his international teammate back and received the caution in return.

In the 14th minute, a Fafa Picault speed move on the outside earned Philadelphia a corner that Medunjanin hit just past a stretching CJ Sapong.

The complexion of the match changed entirely in the 18th minute when a Mark McKenzie turnover in midfield became a lightning-quick Atlanta break. As Martinez let the ball roll through his legs in the box, Trusty poked a foot in and Stoica pointed to the penalty spot. The play was not selected for Stoica’s review by MLS’ Video Assistant Referee system.

Following the penalty call, both Bedoya and Medunjanin were given red cards as they vociferously disputed the decision.

Martinez drilled the penalty into Union goalkeeper Andre Blake’s net.

In the 24th minute, Miguel Almirón found space near the end line to the left of the goal, cut back onto his only slightly weaker right foot, and forced Blake to smother a powerful shot. The Paraguayan nearly turned provider in the 30th minute of play with a low cross that eluded all comers. Atlanta retained possession and Almirón then released midfielder Chris McCann down the left and he centered the ball to Nagbe for an easy finish, but the play was called back because McCann was offsides.

Even down two men, the Union found a chance in the 35th minute when Sapong’s brilliant turn in midfield led to Picault setting up shop above the box on the left. The winger curled a shot just outside of Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s far post.

It looked as though Philadelphia would get into halftime down a single goal, but just before the break, Atlanta's Julian Gressel found space to set up a half-volley from the top of the box that slammed into Blake’s crossbar and bounced away from goal.

After the break, Atlanta Head Coach Tata Martino replaced McCann with Mikey Ambrose as he sought to increase the pressure on Philadelphia’s back line. The move nearly paid immediate dividends when Ambrose and Almirón combined down the left and the latter swung in a cross that Blake pushed away. The ball fell to Martinez and he attempted an audacious bicycle kick that flew over the goal.

Two minutes later Ambrose and Almirón combined again, and the Paraguayan found Martinez with a low cross that MLS’ leading scorer easily tucked home.

The Union were down two but refused to be counted out. After Fabinho’s free-kick was only half-cleared in the 52nd minute, Warren Creavalle — who had entered the match for Dockal following the red cards — dinked the ball back into the box where Picault calmly collected it and fired through Guzan’s legs to cut the home side’s lead to one.

Atlanta nearly had a third a minute later, but Blake flew off his line to deny Martinez after Almirón and Ambrose got together once more on the left. Next, Martinez won a header off an Almirón corner and tagged Blake’s crossbar but, once more, the Union goal could not be breached.

Philadelphia Union Head Coach Jim Curtin used his second substitution to replace midfielder Marcus Epps with Ilsinho in the 57th minute of play, and Union forward Cory Burke came on for Sapong ten minutes later after the striker appeared to be tripped from behind and stayed down for a short spell.

Trusty’s endless work saw him deflect a Gressel cross over Blake’s goal in the 80th minute, but two minutes later another cross from the same player hit a leaping Fabinho’s arm and Stoica went to VAR to review the play before awarding a penalty kick. Martinez coolly finished to notching his fifth career MLS hat trick, tying the all-time record.

The home side nearly had a fourth goal in extra time, but the Union’s continued hustle was highlighted as Blake forced Atlanta's Brandon Vazquez to make a move, then leaped back into position to push away the substitute’s shot after Fabinho slowed the play down.

In the end, two red cards and two penalties were too much for the Union to overcome against the leaders of the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia will be in MLS action again next Friday as they welcome Toronto FC to Talen Energy Stadium at 8 p.m. ET on PHL17. The club will also host USL side Richmond Kickers in the Fourth Round of U.S. Open Cup play on Tuesday, June 5 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

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