Julian Gressel scored early and Josef Martinez struck late as Atlanta United defeated the Philadelphia Union, 2-0, in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals Thursday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
That sets up a scintillating showdown of the last two MLS Cup champions as the Five Stripes host Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference Final on Oct. 30 (8 pm ET | FS1, TSN, TVAS, FOX Deportes) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Gressel put the finishing touches on a nice buildup that saw Darlington Nagbe find Gressel, who played on to Pity Martinez with the Argentine playmaker returning the favor. Gressel chipped over Andre Blake, who was late off his line, and put his shot in off the crossbar just 10 minutes after kickoff.
The Union’s best chance at an equalizer came seven minutes later when Sergio Santos was played behind and the Brazilian slipped a diagonal pass to a sliding Brenden Aaronson, who was denied by Brad Guzan at the edge of the six-yard box.
Not long after being denied by a late Ray Gaddis intervention, Josef Martinez tacked on the insurance goal in the 80th minute, running onto a Gressel long ball and ripping a left-footed blast under the crossbar for his fifth postseason goal.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Another magical moment at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Five Stripes, who also kept another playoff clean sheet to move one step closer to reaching MLS Cup for a second straight year. The Union made big strides this year, but surely they wonder what if Kacper Przybylko was healthy?
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: How different would the game had been if Aaronson was able to put this shot past Guzan and equalize? We’ll never know because the veteran came up with the biggest of his three saves.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Gressel scored a terrific opening goal and set up Josef with a perfect long ball. He probably should have had another assist, but the Venezuelan missed the target late.
- ATL: Oct. 30 vs. Toronto FC (8 pm ET | FS1, TSN, TVAS, FOX Deportes) | Audi 2019 MLS Cup Eastern Conference Final
- PHI: End of season