Atlanta United

Union staggered by inability to finish vs. Atlanta United

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Union staggered by inability to finish vs. Atlanta United

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. — With four losses in their last five games, the Union are reeling.

Their latest setback, a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Josef Martinez and Atlanta United on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium, was a highlight show of recent problems for the club. 

“We kicked ourselves in the foot,” said Union attacker Fafa Picault. “Didn’t do our job.”

It was a common tale for the 2018 Union, that had less to do with the competition than the Union’s inability to produce. Generate chances? Check. Fail to finish? Check. The Union registered 18 shots, 16 crosses and five corners, but had nothing to show for it. 

“That’s our problem,” said Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin, whose club has lost to Atlanta twice, Toronto FC and LAFC in recent games. “If we don’t score the first goal then we will struggle. That’s what happened today.”

The second-lowest-scoring team in MLS and lowest scoring team in the Eastern Conference has struggled to get those early goals, shutout nine times in 18 games. It’s been a grind for the troubled Union, who were impressive at times against the best team in MLS on Saturday, but are now 6-9-3 on the season. 

“This is frustrating,” Medunjanin said. “It’s important to score the goal and win games. We didn’t do that. We need to stick together.” 

It hasn’t been a blameless struggle. Forward C.J. Sapong, who signed an extension through 2019 back in March, scored a career-high 16 goals last year but has just two in 16 games this season. As a consistent starter, he’s been the poster player for the team’s inability to score.

“I chose C.J. to start,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “There was going to be fingers pointed at him after the game if we didn’t. We’re a team. We win as a team. We lose as a team. 

“He’s having a tough time scoring, that’s what he’s going to be judged on,” he said. “Fair or unfair, that’s the life of a striker. He’s still a guy I believe in.”

But fixing Sapong wouldn’t solve all of the Union’s woes. Left winger Picault only has three goals and right winger David Accam, who has been relegated to bench duty, has none in a combined 30 games. 

Even the Union's most productive player has struggled. Minutes into the second half, Alejandro Bedoya did the work to get around the Atlanta defenders and gain an edge on the right side. He placed a perfect pass into the seam for Borek Dockal, who saw his one-touch chip flew high over the net. 

Moments later, Atlanta took the lead. 

“When we arrive there in the box, we need to be sharper, all of us,” Medunjanin said. “We need to learn that because in soccer it’s about small things. If you score the first goal it would have been much easier for us, but we didn’t do it and we lost a game that we could have won.”

Missed chances cost Union in 2-0 loss to Atlanta United

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Missed chances cost Union in 2-0 loss to Atlanta United

BOX SCORE 

CHESTER, Pa. -- It was another lifeless night for the Union offense, as the hosts fell to the league’s top team, Atlanta United, 2-0, on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium. 

The chances were there but the finish wasn’t. Despite 18 shots, the lowest scoring team in the Eastern Conference remained that way, falling to 6-9-3 for their fourth loss in their last five games.

Meanwhile, Atlanta United moved to an MLS-leading 12-4-4. Brad Guzan finished with the three-save shutout.

• It was a battle between the highest and lowest scoring teams in the conference. But you wouldn’t know it from the first half. The back-and-forth action made for an entertaining show, as the teams combined for 17 shots and eight corners.

• It was a game marred by missed chances. The Union’s most potent opportunity of the game came in the 55th minute, when Alejandro Bedoya chipped the ball to himself down the right side. With an opening, he sent a perfect seam pass to Borek Dockal, who’s attempted redirection went high.

• That miss would cost them. Two minutes later, the Union were caught, when Mark McKenzie was beat on a long ball by offensive dynamo Miguel Almiron, who was clipped by Andre Blake in a race for the ball. The in box foul drew a penalty kick for Atlanta United.

•Josef Martinez finished the play, calmly playing his penalty kick to the right of Blake for a 1-0 Atlanta United advantage. It was his 18th goal this season.

• But it wasn’t all Blake’s fault. He was the best player on the field for the Union. Including a full-extension diving stop in the opening moments of the second half, Blake finished with six saves.
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• Looking for life, Union manager Jim Curtin tapped forward Cory Burke to replace C.J. Sapong in the 64th minute. It was another tough outing for Sapong, who finished with no shots on goal. He’s registered just one shot on goal in his last nine games. He’s scoreless in his last 11.

• Atlanta United doubled its lead in the 76th with a tic-tac passing play that undressed the Union defense. Hector Villalba scored from Almiron and Martinez.

• Next up for the Union, they hit the road on short rest to face the Chicago Fire on Wednesday at Toyota Park.

Bedoya, Medunjanin see red in Union loss to Atlanta United

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Bedoya, Medunjanin see red in Union loss to Atlanta United

BOX SCORE 

ATLANTA — Josef Martinez tied the all-time Major League Soccer record with his fifth career hat trick to lead Atlanta United past the short-handed Philadelphia Union 3-1 on Saturday night.

The leader for the MLS Golden Boot coming into the game, Martinez was pulled down in the box in the 18th minute and not only was awarded a penalty kick, but sparked an outburst by Philadelphia that resulted in two red cards and left the Union two players down for the remainder of the game.

Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin vehemently disagreed with the call by referee Sorin Stoica. Bedoya, who picked up an earlier yellow card, drew an immediate red card and Medunjanin first was shown a yellow card before being sent off with a red.

Martinez converted a PK for a 1-0 lead and his 10th goal this season and added his 11th at the start of play in the second half.

Fabrice-Jean Picault got the Union back within one with his goal in the 52nd minute from close range, but Martinez added his third goal and second penalty kick of the game in the 83rd minute.

Philadelphia came in 3-0-1 in its last four, but fell to 1-5-1 on the road.