The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Doug Roberson rates Atlanta United’s players after Thursday’s 2-0 win against Philadelphia in the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan, 8: Finished with three saves, including a huge stop of Brenden Aaronson in the 17th minute to help his team earn its second consecutive shutout. ...
Right fullback Franco Escobar, 8: Playoff Franco, as some have dubbed him, is a difficult player to deal with. His speed makes him dangerous as a wingback and allows him to get back on defense. He didn’t create a chance but caused the Union all sorts of trouble down the right. ... Led the team with four tackles.
Centerback Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, 8: With no Miles Robinson and no Michael Parkhurst, Gonzalez Pirez marshaled the defense all night. Sergio Santos didn’t even attempt a shot while Fifa Picault had just one on goal. ...Lucky to escape a yellow card in first minute he hit Santos in the neck with his left elbow as both were going for a header. ...
Centerback Flo Pogba, 8: Making his first start in the playoffs, he was solid in handling things as the left centerback in a two-centerback back line. ... His passing was spot-on at 96 percent and he didn’t commit any fouls that could have led to free kicks.
Left fullback Mikey Ambrose, 7.5: Making his first start in months and facing Alejandro Bedoya, Ambrose proved manager Frank De Boer’s choice to start him as correct. ... Completed more than 90 percent of his passes, made one tackle and won three fouls. Bedoya had just three shots, none on goal, and didn’t create a chance. ... A good night.
Defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, 8: An example of his night: his sliding effort across the front of the goal late in the game to cut out a dangerous cross. ... Put two Union players on the ground with fair and tough tackles.
Defensive midfielder Darlington Nagbe, 7: Didn’t get on the ball much in the first half, which resulted in Atlanta United having trouble breaking Philadelphia’s pressure. ... Took more control in the second half
Midfielder Pity Martinez, 8.5: Making his first start in three games, his assist opened the scoring. ... Earned a free kick and yellow card to Alejandro Bedoya in the 34th minute. ... Another great pass put Josef Martinez in on goal in the 69th minute. ... Tracked a long way back to slow down a Union attack in the 75th minute. ... Limited Haris Medunjanin, which was the goal. ... Seems to come up big in the big games.
Right midfielder Julian Gressel, 8.5: His opener gave Atlanta United a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute. It was his seventh goal this season. ... His assist helped Atlanta United take a 2-0 lead.
Left midfielder Ezequiel Barco, 7: Moved to the left limited his effectiveness on offense, but he was often an effective outlet to break the Union’s pressure. ... Just one shot and no chances created.
Striker Josef Martinez, 8: After a few misses, he hammered a shot past Andre Blake to give Atlanta United a 2-0 lead in the 80th minute.
Emerson Hyndman (on for Barco, 73), 6:
Eric Remedi (on for P. Martinez 79), 7:
Mo Adams (on for Ambrose, 84), NR:
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