Julian Gressel, Atlanta United Beat Union, Will Host Conference Finals

Julian Gressel Andre Blake
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 24: Atlanta's Julian Gressel (24) shoots over Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake (18) and scores a goal during the MLS playoff match between Philadelphia Union and Atlanta United FC on October 24th, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

ATLANTA, GA. – The 2018 MLS Cup Champions will host the Eastern Conference Finals. Atlanta United FC and Julian Gressel defeated Philadelphia Union on Thursday night. They will play host to Toronto FC, who defeated the top seeded New York City FC on Wednesday.

Julian Gressel, Atlanta United Beat Union, Will Host Conference Finals

There was an interesting dynamic going into this match. Philadelphia Union got their first ever playoff win over the weekend in a wild game against rival New York Red Bulls. It took extra time for Marco Fabian to score the game winner. The Union were very much a collective team and did not have any big weaknesses other than not having a singular match winner.

On the other side, Atlanta United had an extra days rest having defeated New England Revolution on Saturday. This team has rarely played to the sum of its parts this season, but their star power has shown, especially in center forward Josef Martinez.

The Five Stripes opened the scoring 10 minutes in. They were moving the ball into the final third when Pity Martinez made a nice run to square the ball to an onrushing Julian Gressel. Challenged by a defender, Gressel got to the ball first to deliver a deft chip over goalkeeper Andre Blake and score.

The two sides traded chances in the second half with Philly desperate but struggling to create quality opportunities. Atlanta still looked the better side. Josef Martinez delivered the final blow in the 80th minute. Julian Gressel fired a long ball from his own end. Martinez ran onto and hit the top corner to score.

The match ended 2-0.

Three Takeaways:

Julian Gressel Mania: Julian Gressel had a goal and assist in this game. He showed up along with both Martinez stars. That was the difference.

Philly comes up short: The Union looked sluggish at times. The 120 minutes over the weekend, one fewer days rest, and having to travel hurt them. Not having a star to make the difference hurt as well.

Atlanta set for MLS Cup return: Atlanta will host Toronto who are not fully healthy and got here by the skin of their teeth. Playing at home, the Five Stripes should be in position to be favored to return to MLS Cup.

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