Thiago Almada scored a brilliant half-volley as Atlanta United beat the Philadelphia Union 2-0 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Argentinian gave Atlanta the lead in the seventh minute. It came after the hosts were initially awarded a penalty for Nate Harriel's foul on Giorgos Giakoumakis. However, after a VAR review, it showed that the contact was just outside the penalty area.
Almada took the free-kick but saw his initial effort strike the wall. Fortunately for Atlanta, the ball rebounded perfectly for Almada to strike a half-volley goalward. It had plenty of power as it curled into the right corner of the goal, leaving Joe Bendik rooted to his spot.
The hosts doubled their lead with a little over ten minutes remaining. Almada picked out Brooks Lennon, who was in acres of space inside the penalty area. It allowed the wing-back to set himself before shooting beyond Bendik.
Jim Curtin made one change to the side that beat Inter Miami 4-1. Nate Harriel replaced Kai Wagner, who picked up a knock in the victory against Miami.
Harriel was involved from the start when he was judged to have fouled Giorgos Giakoumakis inside the penalty area following a ball towards the box by Thiago Almada. However, after a VAR review, it was found that Harriel had brought Giakoumakis down just outside the box, so a free-kick was awarded.
From the resulting set piece, Almada gave Atlanta the lead. The Argentinian took the free-kick but saw his initial effort strike the wall. However, the rebound fell perfectly for Almada to rifle a half-volley into the back of the net, leaving Joe Bendik rooted to his spot.
In the 23rd minute, Giakoumakis had a great opportunity to make it two. Brooks Lennon got down the right-hand side before cutting the ball back towards the Greek forward inside the box, who sent a first-time effort goalward. Fortunately, it was straight at Bendik, who got down to make the save.
Miguel Berry replaced Giakoumakis in the 30th minute and forced Bendik into a save. Machop Chol got beyond Jack Elliott down the right before playing a lowball into the penalty area. It was aimed towards Almada, who could not get the ball under control. The ball then fell to Berry, who shot straight at Bendik, who gathered it at the second attempt.
The left-hand side of the Union defence continued to cause them issues as a long diagonal pass allowed Lennon to get down the right unchallenged. He brought the ball into the penalty area before being pressured by Harriel. The wing-back got a shot away, but Bendik parried clear at his near post.
HALF-TIME: Atlanta United 1-0 Philadelphia Union
Mikael Uhre saw an effort from inside the box deflected wide for a corner in the 51st minute. Olivier Mbaizo's cross into the box eventually fell to the forward, who struck it goalward. It took a deflection on its way to send it behind for a corner. Daniel Gazdag took the set piece, which found the head of Ale Bedoya, who headed over the bar at the near post.
Bedoya had another good chance moments later. The midfielder got on the end of a loose ball down the right before cutting the ball onto his left foot, thus taking a defender out of the game. He brought the ball into the box before bending a left-footed effort towards the far post. It had Brad Guzan stretching but went wide of the target.
In the 73rd minute, the Union made two substitutions, with Jack McGlynn and Quinn Sullivan replacing Bedoya and Uhre.
Four minutes later, Jose Martinez was replaced by Joaquin Torres after the Venezuelan had picked up a knock.
In the 79th minute, Lennon made it two for Atlanta. The hosts broke forward, and Almada did well to spot Lennon unmarked on the right side of the box. The wing-back had plenty of time to set himself before shooting beyond Bendik, who could not keep the ball out.
FULL-TIME: Atlanta United 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Atlanta United: Guzan, Lennon, Hernandez, Purata, Abram, Wiley (Gutman 86'), Ibarra (Sosa 86'), Sejdic (Alonso 86'), Almada, Chol (Wolff 63'), Giakoumakis (Berry 30')
Unused Substitutes: Westberg, Rossetto, Cobb, McFadden
Philadelphia Union: Bendik, Mbaizo, Glesnes, Elliott, Harriel, Flach, Martinez (Torres 77'), Bedoya (McGlynn 73'), Gazdag, Carranza, Uhre (Sullivan 72')
Unused Substitutes: Trent, Real, Craig, Bueno, Perea, Donovan