Atlanta United outplayed the hottest and best team in MLS, but managed only a 0-0 draw with Philadelphia on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Five Stripes (10-12-10) held the Union, which had scored 23 goals in its past five games, to zero shots on goal. But they couldn’t get any of their six shots on goal across the line, though they were within inches of doing so twice in the second half only to be denied by Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake. Atlanta United’s unbeaten streak reached three games in front of an announced attendance of 42,521.

With the draw, Atlanta United cut its deficit behind seventh-place Columbus to one point in the playoff race. The Crew are scheduled to play Portland on Sunday. Atlanta United has two games remaining in the regular season. The teams it is chasing or competing with for one of the final playoff spots have three.

“In the moment they are in, yes, this is the most complete game that we have played because of the opponent,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “But I felt that there were too many games similar to this. And we couldn’t get the result. I’m very proud of my players, are very proud of their passion, the hard the fight the mentality, but also the good football that they performed tonight.”

The shutout was Atlanta United’s second consecutive and sixth this season. It was shut out for the seventh time. It was the seventh time in its history that it held a team without a shot on goal.

Pineda said the team was able to shut down the Union’s offense, limiting them to five shots, through active defending and by controlling the possession. Atlanta United had 59.6% of the possession and created 13 chances to the Union’s four. Atlanta United finished with an expected goals of 1.33 to the Union’s 0.16, which was their lowest this season. It also was the lowest expected goals against Atlanta United this season.

“We’ve been working really hard every day preparing for our opponents,” centerback Alan Franco said. “Today we played against the leader of the league, and we knew it was going to be difficult, but their goalkeeper was the player of the game.”

Pineda kept the same starting lineup for the third consecutive game, which also is the first time this season he’s done that this season. Dom Dwyer started for the fourth time this season as striker with Luiz Araujo on the left wing and Brooks Lennon on the right wing. The midfield consisted of Thiago Almada, Amar Sejdic and Santiago Sosa. The back four consisted of Andrew Gutman as left fullback, Ronald Hernandez as right fullback and JuanJoPurata and Franco as the centerbacks. Raul Gudino started the fourth consecutive game in goal. Josef Martinez was on the bench for the sixth in the past seven games that he’s been eligible to play.

Atlanta United came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 51st minute when Araujo hit a cross from the left to Lennon, who was running down the right channel. His shot was deflected by Blake. Dwyer was first to the loose ball, but his shot was blocked by centerback Jakob Glesnes, who also blocked Dwyer’s follow-up on the goal line. Philadelphia’s Andre Blake then grabbed the ball.

Pineda subbed in Ronaldo Cisneros for Dwyer and Edwin Mosquera for Araujo in the 68th minute.

Mosquera made an immediate impact. He beat several Union players before losing the ball as he approached the goal. He then forced Blake to make a leaping save in which he reached behind him to stop a shot arrowing for the upper left corner in the 73rd minute.

“I was already about to celebrate that,” Mosquera said of his second shot.

Sejdic hit the post in the 76th minute after a long spell of possession by the Five Stripes.

“The post was also the difference,” Sejdic said when asked about Blake. “Just a couple situations. A little bit unlucky.”

Matheus Rossetto and Martinez came on in the 78th minute for Hernandez and Sejdic as Pineda pushed to find the winning goal. Martinez moved into striker, with Cisneros moving to the right wing, and Lennon dropped into the fullback role.

A headed shot by Martinez was cleared the line in stoppage time.

“This one hurts because this could have put us in a playoff position for a little bit, maybe,” Pineda said. “Anyways, the team did very well. If we continue like this in the last few games, for sure. We now have two victories, and combined with our results, we can do it. But very proud, overall, my players.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0

August 6 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 1

August 13 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

August 17 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

August 21 Atlanta United 2, Columbus 2

August 28 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

August 31 Philadelphia 4, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 4 Portland 2, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 10 Atlanta United 4, Toronto 2

Sept. 14 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 0

Sept 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1:30 p.m., UniMas