Four players found new clubs via Stage One of the Major League Soccer Re-Entry Draft on Tuesday, while a one-time USMNT winger found a new home by way of trade.
That player is Fabrice “Fafa” Picault, who is headed to FC Dallas in exchange for $300,000 of 2020 General Allocation Money and a conditional $75,000 in 2021.
[ MORE: U.S. Soccer announces award nominees ]
Picault, 28, had five goals and five assists in 35 appearances for Philadelphia this season, his third in MLS. He scored 17 times with eight assists his first two seasons in the league, and his next appearance will be his 100th in the league. He earned caps for the USMNT in 2016 and 2018.
As for the Re-Entry draft, Mikey Ambrose is headed from Atlanta United to first-year club Inter Miami CF, while fellow expansion side Nashville SC has selected Eric Miller from New York City FC.
A pair of goalkeepers are also moving, with Richard Sanchez going from Chicago to Sporting KC and Kendall McIntosh heads from Portland to the New York Red Bulls.
The game in 200 words (or less): Atlanta United topped the Philadelphia Union by a final score of 1-0 inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday, booking their return trip to the Eastern Conference final which they won in 2018 en route to lifting MLS Cup. Atlanta took an early lead through a delightful chip by Julian Gressel, set up by Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez’s 360-vision through ball (more on that in a moment), they never relinquished it, and Josef Martinez put the game away late. While the Five Stripes were far from their overwhelming, all-consuming selves on the scoreboard and stat sheet (just 12 shots, five on target), they allowed Philadelphia even less on the other end of the field (11 shots, three on target). Atlanta will host Toronto FC, in a matchup of the last three East champions and the last two MLS Cup winners, in the East final next Wednesday, Oct. 30.
[ MORE: Frank Lampard praises Christian Pulisic ]
Three things we learned
- A Pity-ful moment: It’s true that Pity’s first season in Atlanta has (far) fallen well short of what Miguel Almiron contributed in 2018, but that was always going to be an unfair measuring stick for the Argentine. After spending all regular season (and the first round of the playoffs) in and out of the lineup, Pity got the call on Thursday and delivered the goods. This is an assist you’re not supposed to see, but Pity saw it all the way.
- Don’t give Josef a glimpse. It’s too late: Good luck finding a finish better than this one from Josef. It couldn’t have been placed any better, whether higher or to the left, and there’s not a thing any goalkeeper in the world could have done to stop it. He had a few chances to find the back of the net in this one, and while he was largely wasteful on the night, he put the most difficult of all those chances away and showed once again that he can singlehandedly take over and change the course of a game, or an entire playoffs.
- Atlanta with a sense of control: Coming into the season, the biggest question following Frank De Boer‘s appointment as Tata Martino’s replacement revolved around the clash of playing styles of the respective sides. Early on, it was a total disaster as De Boer tried to force square pegs into round holes. Eventually, though, he relented a fair bit of control and met his players somewhere in the middle (though, still closer to their end of the spectrum). In a way, this year’s edition of ATLUTD might actually be better suited to navigate the playoffs en route to lifting MLS Cup (if not for LAFC standing in their way). There was a large measure of control and maturity to the way they finished off this game.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]
Man of the match: Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez
Goalscorers: Gressel (10′), Martinez (80′)
Strap yourself in for another wild night of 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs action, as each the Eastern and Western Conference semifinals are set to wrap up Thursday night.
One of Thursday’s two games features the defending champions, while the other features this year’s championship favorites taking on their crosstown rivals and the biggest
ego star to ever grace MLS.
[ MORE: Live scores, box scores, stats ]
First up, Josef Martinez and no. 2 Atlanta United will host no. 3 Philadelphia Union (8 p.m. ET) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta failed to be Philadelphia in either of the sides’ two regular-season meetings this year, drawing 1-1 at home back in March and losing 3-1 away in August.
Then, it’s The Big One, El Trafico, Round 3: Los Angeles FC hosting LA Galaxy (10:30 p.m. ET). Carlos Vela versus Zlatan Ibrahimovic. New money versus old money. The second-year juggernaut versus the league’s all-time legacy club. LAFC are yet to beat the Galaxy in five tries since joining MLS. Will tonight be the night, or will the Galaxy ruin the greatest statistical (regular) season in MLS history?
Last night’s conference semifinals saw Toronto FC go on the road and knock off New York City FC, the top seed in the East, with a late goal from the penalty spot; Seattle Sounders ended Real Salt Lake’s season — and Nick Rimando’s career — with a 2-0 victory at CenturyLink Field.
Check back on PST following tonight’s final whistles for a full recap and analysis as the conference final round gets set.
A wild and wacky game saw Philadelphia come from two goals down to force extra time, and Marco Fabian bagged the eventual winner in the 105th minute to put the Union into the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 4-3 win. The victory is the first in playoff action for the Union in club history.
New York held a 3-1 advantage at halftime as Josh Sims, Tim Parker, and Tom Barlow all found the back of the net for the visitors in the opening 45 minutes, while Alejandro Bedoya found the back of the net himself.
After the break, things got even more wild. New York coughed up the lead, with Jack Elliott and Fabrice Picault each striking once despite a solid display from Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles. With the game level, the final 15 minutes were all Philadelphia as the Eastern Conference three seed peppered New York’s penalty area, but Robles made a fabulous save on a Jamiro Monteiro effort from point blank range at the back post.
In extra time, Fabian found the back of the net with what appeared to be a chipped cross that took a slight deflection and snuck into the top corner from a tight angle.
The Union will get a matchup with Atlanta United in the semifinals, after Frank De Boer engineered a 1-0 win over New England.
With Decision Day in the rear view mirror, the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs bracket is all set.
[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]
Round 1 action starts on October 19-20, following the international break. Just days later, first seeds NYCFC and LAFC join the playoffs as the Conference Semifinals take place.
On October 29-30, the Conference Finals will be played, which will decide what two teams will feature in the 2019 MLS Cup final on November 10.
Below is the MLS playoff bracket in full. Who will go the farthest?