It felt like a playoff atmosphere at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as Atlanta United hosted Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union on Saturday in the club’s annual match to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Atlanta United established control against the Supporters Shield contenders, especially in the second half, holding Philadelphia to five shots and without a shot on goal. The 5-Stripes shut out a team that's scored 23 goals in the last five matches but couldn't find the finishing touch themselves after taking 15 shots, and the match resulted in a scoreless draw.
First half – Consistent lineup for Gonzalo Pineda, Atlanta United knocks on the door
Gonzalo Pineda may have found the consistency he’s been looking for with his starting lineup. The Atlanta United head coach went with the same starting XI for the third consecutive match.
The intensity of the match was felt instantly. In the 10th minute, the first yellow card was handed out to Philadelphia Union attacker Julián Carranza for a hard foul on Amar Sejdić. It was one of four fouls called on the visitors in the first 15 minutes of the match.
The first shot of the match came in the 17th minute and was taken by Atlanta United. Defender Brooks Lennon sent a long ball right on the money to striker Dom Dwyer. Dwyer used his chest to control the cross and tried to loft the ball over Philadelphia’s keeper, but the shot went high.
The home team continued to knock on the door. A few minutes later, center back Juanjo Purata nearly scored his seventh goal of the season on a header off a corner kick, but that too went high. On the next play, midfielder Thiago Almada set up a shot for himself from the top of the box, but the well-driven ball went just wide of the frame.
Philadelphia had its most dangerous chance in the 28th minute. The club’s scoring leader on the season, Dániel Gazdag, found a lane and sent a ball through Atlanta’s backline to Carranza. The striker got off a right footed shot from the right side of the box, but it sailed high.
In what was a fairly even first half on the stat sheet, Atlanta United finished the first half with 55.8 percent of the possession. The team took two shots (compared to Philadelphia's four) and made eight clearances for Atlanta's third consecutive half with a clean sheet.
Second half – Josef Martínez enters the match, nearly scores
The physical play continued in the second 45. Sejdić was given a yellow card in the 49th minute for a hard foul on a contested aerial ball.
It looked like Atlanta United opened the scoring in the 50th minute. Lennon receive a ball over the top right from Luiz Araújo. His shot required a diving save from Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, but his block left the ball in the middle of the box. Dwyer tried to pounce on it at the goal line, but Philadelphia’s defensive effort kept the home side off the board.
In the 60th minute, Atlanta United created another good opportunity. Almada sent a through ball to Ronald Hernández on the right flank. The pass put Hernández in range for a shot, but his left-footed, low strike went right into Blake’s hands.
Pineda made his first substitutions of the match in the 68th minute. Edwin Mosquera and Ronaldo Cisneros entered for Dwyer and Araújo.
After a flurry of shots, including one from Santiago Sosa and a driven shot from Sejdić that hit the post, Pineda made a few more substitutions. Matheus Rossetto entered the match in the 78th minute. Then, the roof at Mercedes-Benz Stadium nearly blew open as Josef Martínez subbed on.
Atlanta United continued to press for the go-ahead goal and nearly found it in second-half stoppage time. Lennon sent a cross from the right side of the pitch that Martínez got a head on, but Blake made a flying stop, one of his fives saves on the night for Philadelphia Union, to keep the match scoreless.
The home side largely controlled the second half, taking 13 shots in the second 45, but couldn't quite find the finishing touch. Atlanta United gets its second straight clean sheet, picks up one point in the Eastern Conference race and remains unbeaten against Philadelphia Union at home in MLS regular season play.
Up next – The September FIFA International Break
Only two matches remain in Atlanta United’s regular season. First, on October 1 at New England Revolution. Then, it’s Decision Day as Atlanta United takes on New York City FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s the last home match of the MLS regular season so secure your seat today!