Atlanta United kept up their home dominance in the postseason, cruising past the Philadelphia Union on Thursday night to secure a spot in the Eastern Conference Final. It sets up a return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium next week to face Toronto FC for a place in MLS Cup.
Injuries forced a few changes to Frank de Boer’s lineup, with Michael Parkhurst and Miles Robinson out with injury. In came Mikey Ambrose and Florentin Pogba to the starting lineup, with Pity Martínez also making a return to the XI, coming in place of Emerson Hyndman. The full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Mikey Ambrose (LB), Florentin Pogba (CB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Pity Martínez (CM), Ezequiel Barco (LW), Josef Martinez (ST), Julian Gressel (RW).
The atmosphere was electric from the start, with a rowdy crowd roaring on Atlanta United from the opening whistle in a tight, cagey affair of two solid sides. Philadelphia was unbeaten against Atlatna this year and put up a strong fight, but Atlanta United got the advantage just ten minutes into the match. It came from an excellent piece of skill from Pity Martínez, nipping in front of a defender to push the ball into space, before laying a pass that no one else on the field saw. Julian Gressel charged into the empty space and chipped the ball beautifully over the goalkeeper, off the underside of the crossbar and in.
The Union fought back into the match, and put Atlanta United under pressure. Brad Guzan stood tall in the biggest moment, coming off his line and saving excellently from a one-on-one chance with the Union forward. In a back-and-forth affair, Atlanta United went into the half with the 1-0 lead.
Atlanta United nearly doubled their advantaged 15 minutes into the half, with Andre Blake saving from point-blank range from Franco Escobar, then the follow-up header from Leandro González Pirez. Emerson Hyndman and Eric Remedi came into the match to add solidity to the midfield, and that’s when another magic moment shut the door on the match. It was straight out of the schoolyard, with Julian Gressel hitting a long ball from the top of his own box to Josef Martinez one-on-one with the last defender. Josef was ruthless, powering his run to the box and smashing a left-footed finish off the underside of the bar and in.
That would be all Atlanta United would need, with the clock ticking down on a 2-0 win. That means Atlanta United will host another match, the Eastern Conference Final, against Toronto FC on October 30th. Tickets for that match will go on sale soon, so stay tuned for the latest.