Atlanta United’s 1-1 Draw with Philadelphia Union Ends Champions League Run

Atlanta United drew with Philadelphia Union 1-1 in the second leg of its 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal match. While Santiago Sosa scored his first professional goal, the 4-1 aggregate score (leaning in Philadelphia’s favor) meant the Union would advance to the semifinals.

Gabriel Heinze had to make some changes to the starting XI due to injuries and tactical changes from Leg 1. Ezequiel Barco, Jurgen Damm, and Machop Chol were unavailable due to injuries while Lisandro Lopez was out for personal reasons. With Barco and Damm being starters, their spots were filled by Jake Mulraney and Erik Lopez.

It was a nervy first half, but that didn’t stop Atlanta from sending numbers forward. Just before the break, Marcelino Moreno sent a pinpoint pass to Santiago Sosa on the edge of the box. With Leon Flach pressing him, Sosa brilliantly shielded off his defender, turned on goal, took a touch, and clinically placed his shot to the far post, past a diving Andre Blake for a 1-0 lead.

The now infamous Concacaf officiating reared it’s head per usual, when legitimate calls for a trip in the box fell on deaf ears and a possible red card infraction for studs to the head went ignored. It looked as if Atlanta’s Josef Martinez was struck in the back of the head with a high boot which immediately dropped him to the turf.

Atlanta continued to push the issue in attack and dominated possession (69%), but failed to convert that into goals. Philadelphia continued to counter and Kacper Przybylko equalized in the 88′ minute to seal Philadelphia’s place in the semifinals.

Santiago Sosa was the clear Man-of-the-Match for his overall play and his first half goal, which was also his first as a professional. He led the team in touches (109), successful passes (73), duels won (12), tackles (4), interceptions (2) and blocks (3).

“Obviously, he’s a great player. He brings a lot of balance, especially to the back line and midfield,” said Emerson Hyndman about Sosa post-game. “He brings a lot of composure, calmness, and has a great passing range. For us he is a very important player.” Hyndman also contributed a game-high 10 recoveries.

STATS
Shots: 22-9 Philadelphia 
Shots on Target: 5-4 Philadelphia
Corner kicks: 4-3 Philadelphia
Fouls committed: 18-10 Philadelphia
Offside: 3-0 Atlanta
Possession: 69-31 Atlanta
Passing Accuracy: 89-74 Atlanta

Outside of Champions League, it looks like a possible rivalry might be forming between the clubs. After the match, Union manager Jim Curtin was questioned about his conversation with Gabriel Heinze after the final whistle. “He’s an incredible coach, he’s an incredible player, but you can still be a sore loser and be an a**hole at the end of the game. So, I still think there’s a right way, you should shake hands like men after a game.” He had some heavy words towards the five stripes manager, but he didn’t stop there. He caught himself before going into too much detail, but added, “I think there’s great American coaches in this league, there’s great foreign coaches in this league, and I don’t want to make anything more of it than that.” The two clubs will meet again in Atlanta on June 20 at 1:00 p.m.

Atlanta (1-1-1, 4 points) returns to MLS action Sunday when it travels to play Inter Miami CF (1:00 p.m., ABC, Sports Radio 92-9 The Game, La Mejor).

-Jon J.

Photo: Hakim Wright

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