The Philadelphia Union took the first leg of its Concacaf Champions League match against Atlas FC on Tuesday night, as a late penalty from Daniel Gazdag gave the home side a 1-0 victory. The Union defeated a short-handed Atlas side after a red card was issued to Ánderson Santamaría in the first half.
Unlike the Union’s match against Sporting Kansas City the prior weekend, the match against Atlas had plenty of offense. While the Union struggled to get the ball out of the midfield against Kansas City, Philadelphia frequently challenged the visiting defense, though nothing came of it.
Atlas’ best chance came in the 25th minute when Atlas’ star forward, Julian Quiñones, snuck behind the Union’s defensive line. After an initial stop by goalkeeper Andre Blake, Quiñones, Blake and several defenders danced around the penalty area as Quiñones looked for a shot toward the net. When Quiñones did get a shot off, Damion Lowe made a goal-line stop, and after some battling between Olivier Mbaizo and an Atlas forward, the Union earned a goal kick.
After Philadelphia called for penalty kicks throughout the first 45 minutes, it appeared that the Union would finally get its wish at the end of the half. As Julian Carranza drove into the box, he appeared to be tripped up by an Atlas defender. However, a video review seemed to determine that the contact was not enough and the kick was not given.
However, the Union did win a decisive refereeing call just a moment later. After a mistake in the Atlas defense, Gazdag found himself driving into the penalty area with just the goalkeeper to beat. Just before he crossed into the penalty area, he was pushed from behind by Santamaría.
Santamaría was awarded a red card for a Denial of an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity, but the Union failed to convert on the following set piece to end the half.
Philadelphia struggled to penetrate the short-handed defense of Atlas early in the second half. The Liga MX side was able to keep the Union out of the penalty area and waste time.
However, as the second half continued, the Union put more and more chances on net. Jakob Glesnes challenged Camilo Vargas from range, while Jack McGlynn released a strike from 20 yards out that forced Vargas into a full stretch.
By the 70th minute, Jim Curtin was pushing for a win. He took Olivier Mbaizo off the pitch for Quinn Sullivan to boost the group’s attack in the final minutes.
Philadelphia continued to push in the final minutes. Glesnes hammered another shot toward the net in the 83rd minute, a rocket that surely would have made highlight reels around the world had it been a foot lower.
As the likelihood of a draw increased, Carranza earned an important penalty kick. As he drove into the box for a loose ball, he was taken out by Vargas and instantly earned the penalty whistle.
After a brief scuffle around the penalty spot, Gazdag stepped up to the spot, placed the ball, and slotted the shot just past Vargas to take the lead in the 89th minute.
After five minutes of stoppage time, Philadelphia avoided any mistakes and left Subaru Park with a slim 1-0 lead in the series.
Carranza stood out as the man of the match against Atlas. While he did not score, he earned the Union’s penalty kick and frequently caused trouble around the Atlas penalty area for the Union.
Philadelphia is back in action at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 8 as it faces FC Cincinnati on the road. The group plays Atlas in one week’s time at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12 in Mexico.