Playing the first leg of its quarterfinal CCL tie against the Philadelphia Union at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Tuesday night, Atlanta United came out of the gates aggressive and plying some of its most attractive stuff of the season. But two simple mistakes, a poorly defended corner and miscue leading to a goal, and a some raggedy play late in the game gave Philadelphia a solid lead going into the second leg. It must be said that despite the scoreline, it was an impressive performance from the Five Stripes, who dominated the run of play most of the night. But unfortunately a CCL run is looking very unlikely at this point. But the individual performances were far better than the scoreline would indicate.
GK Brad Guzan 6: Not much to do for Guzan in the first half. And despite the two goals in the second half for Philly, it’s hard to knock Guzan for either of them.
LB George Bello 7: Bello was everywhere on the field, yet rarely if ever caught out of position against his opposing forward. Bello continues to take up dangerous positions going forward and his teammates are doing a better job of finding him in dangerous positions.
CB Miles Robinson 6: Miles Robinson seemingly won every challenge presented to him Tuesday. Playing alongside a new defensive partner at the back, Robinson didn’t look the least bit out of sorts and was a constant source of counter attacks by stepping up to win the ball high up the field.
CB Alan Franco 5: A solid first half for the DP central defender from Independiente. His speed ability to recover helped Atlanta close down any spaces they left open for the Union to try to exploit. But as Atlanta pushed for goals late, his positioning was dangerously high and he didn’t seem to have the match fitness to be able to recover
RB Franco Ibarra 6: Ibarra showed Tuesday that he will continue to be an option at right back if Brooks Lennon is unavailable. With the Union playing a 4-4-2 diamond, both fullbacks had even more freedom than normal and Ibarra was all over the pitch, throwing his body around and making underlapping runs into the box
DM Santiago Sosa 7: Marshaled his position as well as he has all season considering the intensity and level of competition. Sosa is already looking like one of the premier holding midfielders in MLS, and the type of player who will give you a 7/10 performance almost every time he takes the field.
CM Emerson Hyndman 7: Possibly Hyndman’s best game of the season. Tremendous work rate and aggression defensively. Found some clever passes and was generally tidy on the ball while keeping it moving quickly.
AM Ezequiel Barco 7: Another quality performance from Atlanta United’s star attacking midfielder. Used his body superbly to wriggle out of tight situations and find passing options. But what stood out most was his work rate and defensive awareness — quick to pounce on unwitting opposing players and twice making long runs back to cover for fullbacks who were pushed high up the field.
LW Marcelino Moreno 6: Probably Moreno’s best performance of the season, though he was hooked before the hour mark to get fresh legs on the field. He’s looking ever more comfortable in his wing position, though he came central much more often to find the ball.
RW Jurgen Damm 3: A frustrating night for Damm, who was clearly the attacker that the Union were comfortable with the ball at his feet. Damm had countless opportunities to run at the opposing fullback in 1v1 situations, but it rarely resulted in much danger. He nearly scored in the opening minutes, but was denied by an impressive save from Andre Blake. Damm was involved in a miscommunication with Sosa that led to Philadelphia’s second goal, but in my opinion the fault lies on Damm, who clearly could’ve handled the situation on his own. For the third goal, Damm attempted a pass that was high-risk considering the positioning of his teammates, and it also lead to a goal.
ST Josef Martinez 6: Josef Martinez was cruelly denied on multiple occasions to home his goalscoring tally for the season. It was another positive night for the Venezuelan, playing a full 90 minutes for the first time since his knee injury last year and very involved in the attacking play.
SUB Jake Mulraney 5: Didn’t provide much of a threat after coming on for Moreno. Didn’t look as dynamic playing on the left side.
SUB Cubo Torres 4: Torres definitely played in the game.