Atlanta United, powered by second-half goals from South American stars Josef Martinez and Hector Villalba, defeated the Philadelphia Union 2-0 on Saturday, at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA.
Entering Saturday’s game against Major League Soccer leaders Atlanta United, the Philadelphia Union had dropped three of their last four and were unbeaten in five games when scoring first.
Philadelphia didn’t score first on Saturday; the Union never scored at all.
Goals have been in short supply for Jim Curtin’s side this season, with the Union second to last in goals scored (21). Seattle Sounders are the only team in MLS that has scored less goals (15).
Curtin’s team was boosted by the return of this season’s club-leading scorer and assist leader, Borek Dockal, who didn’t feature in last week’s loss to Los Angeles Football Club due to the birth of his daughter.
But despite outshooting and out-possessing Atlanta on the night, Philadelphia, now firmly rooted in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, was unable to put any goals past Brad Guzan.
Again, Curtin elected to start last season’s club-leading scorer, C.J. Sapong, up top, leaving in-form striker Cory Burke on the bench.
Sapong, who bagged 16 goals last campaign, hadn’t scored since a 3-2 win over D.C. United in April and continued his scoring drought on Saturday.
Sapong made way for Burke in the 63rd minute, with the Union trailing United 1-0, following a Josef Martinez strike from the penalty spot.
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) July 8, 2018
Martinez’s goal proved to be the winner in the end, with Héctor Villalba adding the icing on the cake, if you will, with a tap-in in the 76th minute. as Atlanta (12-4-4) maintained first in both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.
"That'll leave you with your jaw open right there"
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) July 8, 2018
It is Villalba’s name that gets mentioned for scoring the goal, but the dirty work, or beautification rather, was already done for him, courtesy of Martinez and Almirón who linked up nicely in the final third.
Almirón was a menace for the Union midfield and defense throughout the night, drawing a penalty and beating Ray Gaddis to the byline to assist on Villalba’s third goal of the season.
Gaddis and Fafa Picault were noticeably getting the better of United’s Franco Escobar early in the game, applying unrelenting pressure and forcing the defender to get rid of the ball quickly. But no goals came for their efforts, proving to be the story of the night for Curtin’s team.
For all the Union’s efforts in pressing high up the field and putting the Atlanta backline in uncomfortable situations, there was nothing to show for in the home team’s goal column, at the final whistle.
Anchored by the youthful pairing of Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie, the Union backline were caught out on more than one occasion, pressing high into the midfield, leaving Blake vulnerable and forcing the Jamaican to make the last-ditch save.
Chances were created in the attack, particularly on the right-hand side in the second half, with Ilsinho proving a handful for Mikey Ambrose, but the Union sorely came to rue their many wasted efforts on goal, and failure to force Guzan into making saves like Blake was making at the other end.
Asked in his post-match press conference if the Union can win without Sapong scoring, Curtin simply replied, “yes.”
Josef Martinez (18), 58′
Héctor Villalba (3), 76′
Mark McKenzie, 21′
Andre Blake, 57′
Michael Parkhurst, 18′
18 Total; 3 On
16 Total; 8 On
Philadelphia Union (4-2-3-1)
Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry; Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin; Fabrice-Jean Picault (David Accam, 77′), Borek Dockal, Ilsinho (Marcus Epps, 82′); CJ Sapong (Cory Burke, 63′)
Atlanta United (4-2-3-1)
Brad Guzan; Mikey Ambrose (Chris McCann, 73′), Leandro González Pírez, Michael Parkhurst, Franco Escobar; Jeff Larentowicz, Julian Gressel; Ezequiel Barco, Miguel Almirón, Héctor Villalba (Brandon Vazquez, 84′); Josef Martínez
PFD’s Player of the Game
Early on, I would have said Fafa Picault who was giving Atlanta’s Franco Escobar hell down the Union’s left-flank. But Picault exited the game without a goal, without an assist and with the Union trailing.
Since Saturday’s game was decided in the second half, I’ll go with Miguel Almirón who drew a penalty that ultimately decided the game for the visitors and assisted on a goal, too.
Almirón was all over the field tonight, creating scoring opportunities and havoc for the Union backline. Miguel Almiron. My pick for PFD’s Player of the Game.
Philadelphia has a quick turnaround, as the Union will travel to Toyota Park on Wednesday, July 11, to face the Chicago Fire for a midweek, Eastern Conference showdown. Kickoff is slated for 8:30 PM EST and will be broadcasted on PHL17.