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Philadelphia Union teen pegs Atlanta back in 1-1 draw

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18-year-old Philadelphia Union youth product Brenden Aaronson bagged his first MLS goal as they went to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and earned a 1-1 draw with Atlanta United.

Frank De Boer, new boss of the defending champions, has come under fire for the team’s poor start to the season, and Sunday’s result will only serve to feed the critics with new ammunition. Atlanta held upwards of 70% possession through the match, but generated just two total shots on target.

The best chance of the opening half for the home side came in the 37th minute as Pity Martinez burst down the left and fed Josef Martinez who made a run down the middle splitting the center-backs. Martinez stretched to reach it, but it was just too far. His slide took him into Andre Blake and left last year’s MVP in a heap, but he came back on after a lengthy treatment.

Philadelphia had its own chance down the other end moments later as Fabrice-Jean Picault got free down the center, one-on-one with the goalkeeper Brad Guzan who he shook with a touch to the right. He had an open goal to shoot at from a tight angle to the right, but Miles Robinson made it back to clear off the line.

The opener came just two minutes after the halftime break, Aaronson created his own chance out of nothing, not closed down at the top of the box and shooting past a rooted Brad Guzan. Frank de Boer would make a 67th minute substitution to bring on Ezequiel Barco, and that would pay dividends just three minutes later as Atlanta equalized on a blistering Barco header.

Philadelphia thought it would go a man up in the 92nd minute, but the referee gave only a yellow card to Leandro Gonzalez after taking down Corey Burke who was free on goal. The ensuing free-kick sailed just agonizing inches over the bar off the foot of Haris Medunjanin. The shared points moved Atlanta to just two points on the season through the first three matches, five off the Eastern Conference leaders already. Philadelphia, meanwhile, earned its first point of the campaign with the draw.

Atlanta win second leg, crash out of CCL (video)

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Atlanta United restored some pride in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal tie on Wednesday.

But they are the latest Major League Soccer side to crash out of the competition.

ATL beat Liga MX’s Monterrey 1-0 thanks to a late Josef Martinez goal, as Frank De Boer‘s men lost 3-1 on aggregate in their debut season in the campaign.

After the game, ATL captain Michael Parkhurst revealed that the reigning MLS Cup champs are hugely disappointed.

“We need to learn from it. We’re disappointed not to advance,” Parkhurst said. “It is a very difficult tournament coming at the very beginning of the season for us. We have to take the experience and build off of that for next year.”

Below is a look at the highlights from the clash, as Atlanta had plenty of chances but failed to advance to the semifinals, as Liga MX teams have now got past Atlanta, New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo over the past few days. Mexico’s Monterrey, Santos Laguna and Tigres have all made it through to the semifinals.

Sporting Kansas City are the only MLS team left in the CCL, as they play against Panamanian side Independiente on Thursday.


CCL preview: Long odds for 3 of 4 MLS teams

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Let’s start with a positive: Sporting Kansas City find themselves in a pretty strong position to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals when they host Panamanian side Independiente in leg no. 2 on Thursday.

[ UEFA Champions League: Juve seek comeback v. Atleti; Man City v. Schalke ]

Now, the not-so-positive: the chances of any of the other three remaining MLS teams joining them — should Sporting KC get there themselves, even — are extremely poor.

Peter Vermes’ side trails 2-1 after last week’s first leg in Panama City, but the away goal secured from the penalty spot could prove vitally important when the two sides wrap up the tie at Children’s Mercy Park. Independiente were fully deserving of the home result, as they pressed and thoroughly frustrated a Sporting side that rotated eight of 11 first-choice starters from the weekend prior.

Ilie Sanchez got the away goal, from the penalty spot, which should give at least one MLS team a fighting chance to reach the final four.

[ MORE: With “batteries recharged,” Zidane “couldn’t say no” to Real return ]

Reigning MLS Cup champions Atlanta United have, perhaps, the next best chance of going through — and matching wits with Sporting in the semis — if only for the fact that their first-leg defeat occurred away from home. They have, however, the largest deficit to overcome on Wednesday: 3-0, against Liga MX powerhouse Monterrey.

For much of the first leg, Atlanta trailed 1-0, until the floodgates gave way in the final 10 minutes and Monterrey opened up what could very well be an insurmountable lead. Throw in the fact that Frank De Boer‘s side have looked a far cry from Tata Martino’s final edition of the Five Stripes — the one that tore MLS to shreds en route to the league title in its second season of existence — and a Sporting v. Monterrey matchup begins to look the best possible reality for neutral viewers north of the border.

[ MORE: Guardiola: Man City still “teenagers“ among UCL contenders ]

Then, there are the New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo, each of whom trail 2-0 and hit the road for the decisive leg, against Santos Laguna and Tigres, respectively.

Houston held firm for more than 75 minutes, and though a scoreless draw would have left them in an unfavorable position ahead of Tuesday’s second leg, 0-0 would have been preferable to 0-2. The Red Bulls, on the other hand, were completely played off their home field and never looked up to the challenge of what is arguably Mexico’s most prolific side.

Should a second MLS side join Sporting in the semifinals — heck, if Sporting get there themselves, it’ll be a minor miracle — it’ll be an epic night that no one will soon forget.

MLS: Sporting KC goes wire to wire, Atlanta United pipped by Cincinnati

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Atlanta United was moments away from putting a disappointing start to the season to bed, but in a moment, that all washed away, and the worries remained as the defending champions slumped to a 1-1 draw. Josef Martinez opened his 2019 MLS account just five minutes in to pilfer the lead, but the attack was toothless the rest of the way, and they paid for it down the stretch.

In the 86th minute, Atlanta’s defense caved, sucked forward which allowed Roland Lamah to sneak through and Kenny Saief fed him perfectly. Lamah finished past a helpless Brad Guzan one-on-one and Atlanta was pegged back. While Atlanta United had lost its previous two season openers as well, but each time previously they bounced back in roaring fashion. With Frank De Boer in control, fans are restless to see the team improve in time to keep from falling behind the early leaders.

Goalkeepers reigned supreme as NYCFC and DC United played to a 0-0 draw at Yankee Stadium. Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson filled the highlight reel, putting together nine saves between the two. Hamid was by far the busier of the two, facing 21 total shots from the hosts, with six saves of shots on target. Johnson, meanwhile, put together three saves, all of them good enough to make the postgame recap. Aside from the few big goalkeeping moments, however, the two sides produced little of interest for fans, fitting of a scoreless draw.

Sporting KC picked up its first points of the season as they earned a 2-0 victory at home against the Philadelphia Union. Ilie Sanchez put the hosts ahead with an 11th minute penalty after Auston Trusty fouled Gianluca Busio in the box. Tim Meila was required to stop Marco Fabian’s penalty past the half-hour mark, diving to his right to save the low effort. After halftime, the problems for Philadelphia would compound as Fabian was sent off for stamping on Jonny Russell’s stomach, landing on him after leaping to avoid a challenge, producing a VAR review and ultimately a straight red.

Once Philadelphia fell a man down, they were toothless up front and the hosts took control. They killed off the game in the 80th minute with an own-goal by Jack Elliott hoping to touch a cross out of play but instead poking it into the back of his own net.

LAFC stayed perfect on the season with a 4-1 win over Portland thanks to a roaring second half. The two teams traded set-piece goals in the opening half-hour. Mark-Anthony met a corner with a wild header, burying it into the back of the net despite having his back to the goal to put LAFC up, while Jeremy Ebobisse beat Eduard Atuesta to meet a free-kick with his head. LAFC went back in front right before the break as a sliding Christian Ramirez met a Jordan Harvey cross.

The final 45 minutes was total domination from the home side, out-passing Portland in the attacking third 84-27 throughout the second half, and they were rewarded on the scoresheet. Carlos Vela finished the night with three assists on the first three goals as Adama Diomande put LAFC 3-1 up in the 65th minute, and Vela scored his first goal of the season for LAFC’s fourth with a wonderful chipped finish from a tight angle. Portland saw Diego Chara sent off in the 72nd minute in hilarious fashion after earning his second yellow for flicking the ear of Diego Rossi who flopped like a fish after the contact.

De Boer believes Atlanta fans should lower expectations

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Under heavy disapproval of a poor start to his tenure in charge of Atlanta United, head coach Frank De Boer has looked to rebuff critics by telling fans they have been “spoiled” by the club’s early success.

The club opened its season with a 3-1 loss to Mexican club Herediano, and while they produced a massive 4-0 win in the second leg to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, but they slumped again in the first leg in a 3-0 defeat to Monterrey.

Their league start has also been a struggle. After losing to D.C. United to start the year, they drew 1-1 on Sunday with FC Cincinnati in a game that saw Atlanta go in front early but concede in the last few minutes, de Boer has heard the noise.

“Of course they [Atlanta fans] were a little spoiled with the results of last season,” De Boer said after the defeat to Cincinnati. “Everybody expected [similar results], and that’s also normal.”

De Boer believes the abrupt start to the season due to the continental competition has put them at a disadvantage, citing last season’s strugglers as an example.

“Everybody also saw what happened with Toronto when they played the [CONCACAF] Champions League last season. Out of nothing we were induced to play every three days a game, and now I think in 17 games we play five games or something like that. That’s a lot.”

Last season, after winning the MLS title the year before, Toronto FC reached the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League, but it appeared to have a taxing effect on their league campaign. They lost four of their first five MLS games and finished the year with the third-fewest points in the league.

When asked about fans booing the club, de Boer said it’s not fair to the players who have given their all to start the year.

“I don’t think it’s fair because I think everybody worked very hard for it and it’s not that they didn’t give 100%,” De Boer said. “They [Cincinnati] had their first chance in the 85th minute, so it’s very hard to concede a goal like that. Defensively we were standing very well in the last three, they did fantastic I think. I think it’s not fair to the team.”

Finally, de Boer said he thinks teams are beginning to adjust to Atlanta’s style, packing in defensively and forcing them to play a patient style of attack.

“It’s always very difficult against a team that plays so good organized with so many people in their own half,” de Boer said. “I played for a long time with Ajax and as a coach, teams expect you to just expect you to create chances and play in their own half. That’s the most difficult to play as a football team; everybody knows when you have space you can create more or in transition, but this when they drop very deep in their own half, we have to be secure with those individual actions sometimes and make some runs to create space and make them stretch, and hopefully you can get in between the lines. We have to accept that and have to understand what kind of moments when you have to play long and when you have to play in between the lines.”

Ultimately, telling fans they should expect less so early into a job is probably an ill-advised strategy. Given de Boer’s tendency to perform poorly early into recent jobs, including struggles in short tenures with Crystal Palace and Inter, it’s probably in his best interest to avoid telling Atlanta fans to accept losing.