The Philadelphia Union have moved their new undefeated streak at home to 2 games with their 1-nil victory over Atlas F.C. in the first leg of the quarterfinals in the CONCACAF Champions League. In what was a gorgeous night at Subaru Park in Chester, PA, the game turned into a physical match between two good teams. With a red card given to Anderson Santamaría going into the half and a yellow card given to Brian Lozano will be a game changer for the second leg.
3 days after drawing with a struggling Sporting Kansas City team, Jim Curtin in his post-game press conference emphasized how he wanted his guys to be brave and to take risks while making plays. It seemed like that message resonated with the team and they responded accordingly. From the first kick, with the Sons of Ben and the rest of Subaru Park making their voices heard much louder than the many Atlas fans in attendance, brought it.
As Andre Blake said Saturday night, “We have the best fans in the world. They did everything they could to help us and it was on us to win it.” The Union did just that and did it at home in physical and chippy match. The Union did keep their cool and didn’t play frustrated and was able to keep the clean sheet and take a 1 goal lead on aggregate into leg 2 next week into Mexico.
Going into the second leg now, Atlas will be without Anderson Santamaría and Brian Lozano. Lozano has 5 goals for Atlas in Liga MX play this season and is second on the team in goal scoring. Santamaría is a good defensive back for Atlas and they will miss him in the back field. If the Union can keep a clean sheet, that would be huge, but we saw what happened when Olimpia arrived at the Estadio Jalisco.
Atlas has had goal scoring issues and were absolutely dominated on the pitch by the Union for a majority of the game. Atlas was down a man in the 2nd half, but even early on, they were relying on home run passes to try to beat the Union defenders. The big factors were Damion Lowe in the back field giving the 120% effort on every play and obviously Andre Blake.
On the other side, Camillo Vargas put on a masterclass showing in goal. The saves he was making were incredible and jaw dropping. One that was burned into my memory was a Jack McGlynn shot from outside the box that was marked for the top left corner of the net. Vargas came across and made a great extension save.
There were a couple of questionable calls that the ref let go and allowed the teams to play and ultimately let them decide the outcome of the game. The PK that gave the Union the 1-nil lead on aggregate was not the most egregious foul in the box. Ultimately, one was called and Gazdag put one in, even after Vargas made the right play to try to stop it.
It won’t get easier for the Union, but this round is theirs to lose at this point. It was clear the Union got some confidence coming out of this game and can hopefully build more going for a match against Eastern Conference leaders Cincinnati on Saturday. The second leg of this round will be on April 12th at 10 pm ET on FS1.