Match Recap

Atlanta United battles undefeated Philadelphia Union to 2-2 draw


Atlanta United hosted the only undefeated team remaining in MLS, Philadelphia Union, on Sunday afternoon in a physical match between the two Eastern Conference sides. With a two-goal lead late in the second half, it looked like the 5-Stripes were on their way to winning their fourth straight home match to open the season. However, Philadelphia Union answered, scoring twice in a span of four minutes, to even the scoreline 2-2 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Atlanta United earns a point in the Eastern Conference table. The team remains unbeaten at home this season but missed the chance to start the season with four straight home wins.

"We are winning 2-0 at home, playing very well, creating a lot of chances, and the team was very solid, solid defensively too, but then we gave up two silly goals," head coach Gonzalo Pineda said in the post-match press conference. "Of course it's frustrating, because we deserved to win tonight, but we did not. It's frustrating, but the important thing is that after all the frustration and everything, we must learn from it and be better next time.”

The opening goal came in the 55th minute from Atlanta United's Daniel Ríos, the Mexican striker on loan from CD Guadalajara (Chivas) who earned the start with Giorgos Giakoumakis and Jamal Thiaré out due to injury. On the play, the 5-Stripes moved the ball from left to right where it ended at the feet of Brooks Lennon. Lennon made a short pass to Thiago Almada, who chipped a cross across the box. Ríos rose, kept his shoulders squared and bounced a header perfectly placed into the corner.

Ríos has scored five goals against the Union in his most recent two MLS matches. Before joining Atlanta United, he played in MLS previously with Nashville SC and Charlotte FC.

“Very happy, very happy," Ríos said. "The result is a shame, but it was something that I was looking for, to score in my first game as a starter. Obviously, I’m going to work so that it’s the first of many."

Both Lennon and Almada were credited with assists on the play. It's the first assist of the 2024 season for Almada and the fourth for Lennon, which leads the team.

Atlanta United's second goal arrived in the 63rd minute. Homegrown Caleb Wiley did it all himself and hit an absolute banger from distance for his first goal of the season.

"It came off nice. Not used to scoring those," Wiley said. "There was a similar play in the first half where it kind of came out to me. Thiago played it into space and I took a touch and then took it, played it out of bounds to Tyler [Wolff]. But this time, I saw the chance to take my shot, take the opportunity to hit it, and it went in the back of the net, which was a nice feeling."

The home team was ahead 2-0 heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation. Philadelphia Union would get one back in the 73rd minute. A poor pass from gifted Mikael Uhre, who took a touch and slotted it past goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Minutes later, Kai Wagner would score the equalizer for the Union to make it 2-2.

"We knew the type of game that was in front of us, and we were trying to look for the game and look to create chances, while [Philadelphia Union] were trying to destroy our attacks and then counter, hit in transition, hit on set pieces, or hit on throw-ins, and we knew that since the beginning of the week. We were prepared for that, but in little moments after the 70th minute, we lost control," Pineda said.

Ríos in fact had the first shot attempt of the day for Atlanta United in the 12th minute. After a failed short corner kick attempt, Almada played the next corner long, sending a driven ball into the box. Ríos made good contact, but his header flew just over and wide of the frame.

"Really happy for his dedication and his commitment," Pineda said. "It wasn't easy because he hasn't trained a lot with the team. And also, the opposition has very good center backs, so to beat them you really need to be good and today he was really good."

Even with five players unavailable due to injury, Atlanta United held their own against the only team remaining in MLS without a loss. As the first half progressed, the home team began finding more space and rhythm to build the attack. The team finished the match with 19 shots, including a firm strike from Tristan Muyumba in the 17th minute that went wide of goal.

The Union nearly opened the scoring following a dangerous flurry of action in the first half that required a strong defensive effort from the 5-Stripes. Atlanta United blocked one shot, and another, then headed the ball away until finally Philadelphia swung a cross in from the left side and put a header on frame. Guzan cradled Alejandro Bedoya’s attempt for the veteran’s first save of the match in the 32nd minute.

Atlanta cooked up some good moments to end of the first 45. A skillful touch from Tyler Wolff created space for a pass to Muyumba, who then laid it off for his midfield counterpart Bartosz Slisz. The Polish international teed up a shot, but it was deflected and went out of bounds for an Atlanta United corner kick. A few plays later, Almada fired a shot in a congested area inside the box that was on target but corralled by Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Blake would get injured on the play and exited the match. Backup goalkeeper Oliver Semmle replaced him.

Overall, it was a physical match with 19 fouls called and seven yellow cards given, five to Philadelphia.

"It's one of those draws that feels like a loss, to be honest," Wiley said. "When you create so many chances and you feel like you're honestly the better team, it feels like a loss. Towards the end, it's something that we have to work on is once around the 80th, 90th minute, we have to keep our concentration and focus. This game we didn't have that focus towards the end of the game. And it's something that we've seen in past years, so I think just remembering that we got to finish out the game fully concentrated. But, we'll work on that.”

Match Stats
Atlanta United
Philadelphia Union
Shots on target
Corner kicks
Fouls committed
Passing accuracy

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