The Philadelphia Union protected their sizable first-leg lead over Atlanta United to the first Concacaf Champions League semifinal in club history, but the lopsided 4-1 aggregate result still had its share of controversy
Jim Curtin and Gabriel Heinze had a few disagreements on the sidelines at Subaru Park in the Union’s eventual second leg draw. It wasn’t as confrontational as we’ve seen some of the more recent coaching confrontations between Concacaf-based managers, but it still led to some heated comments after the final whistle.
“He’s a great player and a great coach, but you can still be a sore loser and an asshole after a game,” Curtin said when asked about Heinze. “We had a discussion about the game. He [Heinze] thought our players were diving and faking injuries.”
“I still think there’s a right way. I think he should shake hands like a man after the game.”
Curtin was referring to Heinze’s actions at multiple points during and after the match in Chester, which saw the South American manager frustrated at what he considered to be time-wasting efforts by Union players. Midway through the second half, Sergio Santos was on the field with an apparent injury moments after his No. 17 was on the board to be substituted off.
Instead of getting off the field quickly, Santos was helped up by Atlanta’s Josef Martinez and hobbled his way to the sidelines. Heinze was adamant to the fourth official that Santos was just wasting time to help the Union avoid any drama in the final minutes on the scoreboard, but Curtin was seen in disagreement with the Argentine.
At the final whistle, the two coaches were seen on the Fox Sports 1 broadcast shaking hands and having a few words. Heinze looked to be laughing during the situation, trying to explain himself that there was no issues between the two head coaches.
As for Atlanta United, the Five Stripes suffered a third-straight winless result in all competitions, which now sees them eliminated from the CCL. The Five Stripes were denied by Andre Blake four times in the match, but also failed to get any clear-cut chances outside of Santiago Sosa’s first-ever professional goal.
The Union did well to advance into the tournament’s final four, and will now meet either Club America or the Portland Timbers in August’s semifinal round. It is the latest accomplishment for the club who has continued to take major steps forward in the more recent years under Curtin’s guidance.
“I think everybody has to pinch themselves in the locker room and in the stands, I think our fans can be proud of our team,” Curtin said. “It was a little more nerve-wracking and dicey than it needed to be, I thought we had a lot of transition moments, especially in the second half that we could have finished things off a little bit earlier.”
“I don’t think Philly was kind of respected before I got here but we for sure have damn shown what we’re all about,” midfielder and captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “We (have) an identity, we’ve created a culture here and I think it just oozes throughout the whole club.”
The Union will now look to translate their Champions League success over to MLS play, where they have yet to earn a victory in the 2021 season. Up next for the Eastern Conference side is a trip to the Chicago Fire this weekend.