ATLANTA — Two goals in the first half paved the way for another victory for the Five Stripes Saturday afternoon. In front of a record crowd of 72,548, Atlanta United defeated Los Angeles Galaxy 3-0 and moved temporarily into first place of the Eastern Conference for the first time this season.
“I think we are capable and have the quality to be on top, in first. I think with the quality that we have on our roster; we have to compete for first place. There’s no doubt about it,” Atlanta United manager Frank De Boer said. “I’m glad that right now we are, and of course that’s the way after a couple of hours. But still, this is what we want. This is our goal, to be on top when the season ends. We want to be on top. We want to be the hunted.”
The match began with every seat being covered in either black, red or gold tinfoil, and right at the end of the National Anthem, the fans waved their tinfoil in the air, which read “United” in one end of the field and “Forever” in the other. With the energy in the stadium very high, Atlanta (12-9-3) looked to score early, but the goal would not fall United’s way, that was until halfway through the first half.
In the first goal, Pity Martinez crossed the ball in the six-yard box, and while he sought to find Josef Martinez, the ball was knocked by defender Dave Romney into his own goal at the 23rd minute.
The next couple of minutes saw an Atlanta United team that attempted to score the second goal by pushing its men forward, and they almost succeed at such a task. But, unfortunately for the Five Stripes, attempts by Ezequiel Barco and Pity hit the woodwork and left fans with just an urge to yell goal.
But just before the end of the first half, another own goal, this time by Giancarlo Gonzalez, gave United a 2-0 lead.
The second half played out evenly, and it looked like the match would end in a two-goal difference, but at about the 71st minute, Emerson Hyndman was knocked down in the 18-yard box, and after a VAR review by referee Drew Fischer, he awarded a penalty to Atlanta. The penalty was then scored by Josef Martinez, who has now scored in nine consecutive matches, which ties his record from last season and he also has 17 goals in MLS play.
“Obviously, when you play a semifinal, one has to play with a knife between your teeth. Now we’ll go home and enjoy tonight’s win, and tomorrow we’ll think about Orlando, which is the important thing,” Josef Martinez said regarding Tuesday’s Open Cup semifinal.”
Atlanta will be back in action Tuesday night in Orlando when the team will play for an opportunity to advance and host the U.S. Open Cup final. Kickoff will be at 7:30 Tuesday night.
Man of the Match
The award from this match will go to Miles Robinson. Without Robinson, this team gets scored on at least once this afternoon, but his ability to win duels in one-on-one situations and his ability to play out of the back has increased during the season, and it has definitely shown. Like I have said before, should Robinson continued this kind of performances, expect him to be called up into U.S. Men’s National Team in the near future.