Union push until the end but fall to Atlanta in Eastern Conference semifinals

A season that saw the Union establish themselves as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference finally came to an end as Atlanta United knocked off Philadelphia Union 2-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Thursday evening. 

The Union’s 4-4-2 diamond gave them numbers in the middle but Atlanta created overloads along the flanks in the third minute, Atlanta broke into the box after some lucky bounces provided a route through Philly’s defense. As the Union collapsed to the danger areas, they repelled the home side and began to grab a foothold in the game. 

Atlanta’s breakthrough came in the 10th minute when the ball popped out to Julian Gressel on the right side of the box. The winger had acres of space to work with so Andre Blake was forced to charge off his line to close the angle. Gressel hit a chip over the goalkeeper and just under the bar to put Philly in an early hole. 

The response came from Brenden Aaronson, who sped through the center and ran onto a Sergio Santos cross. Without much space to work with, Aaronson had to play the ball first time as Brad Guzan came out to meet him and couldn’t even the score. 

As the Union continued to push, Atlanta settled into their solid defensive shape. Jim Curtin quickly turned to Ilsinho in the second half. 

The next action, however, came in front of Philly’s own goal. Andre Blake pushed the ball into the air when a shot came in from the right, then quickly recovered to repel a follow-up header. 

Marco Fabian joined the game and after Kai Wagner nearly picked out Fafa Picault from the Mexican international and Alejandro edoya hit a pair of wicked shots from distance that troubled Guzan but couldn’t beat him. 

In the 80th minute, Josef Martinez added a second for Atlanta. Running onto a long ball over the top, he ripped off a wonderful top corner strike to seal the game. 

The Union continued to push, but as Bedoya put a late shot just over the frame, it became clear that Atlanta would walk out a winner. 

True to their season, the team fought until the end but couldn’t overcome Atlanta on the road.

 

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