A red and black sea of 5 stripes swarmed Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first ever match-up between Atlanta United and LA Galaxy on Wednesday evening. 42,723 supporters got to witness another Atlanta United goal scoring frenzy as the home team beat up on the visitors 4-0! Coming into the game, Atlanta United was riding a 4-match unbeaten streak with a 12-8-7 record, while Galaxy, losers of 10 of their last 13 contests, came limping into Mercedes-Benz Stadium with a 7-15-6 record.
While the end result shows that the 5 Stripes had an easy go of it, the first 10 minutes of the match didn’t go so smoothly for the home squad. Atlanta United seemed a bit off their game to start the match, missing passes they normally make look easy. The Galaxy, whose roster is full of players who play or have played for their native national teams like Jermaine Jones (USA), Gyasi Zardes (USA), the dos Santos brothers, Giovani and Jonathan (Mexico), and Ashley Cole (England), were stringing quite a few passes together. If not for Brad Guzan parrying away a beautifully struck ball by Giovanni dos Santos in the 6th minute, or for Leandro Gonzalez Pirez sliding to block a Zardes chance inside the box in the 8th minute, the beginning of the game could have started out much like the Orlando City game. It was as if the Galaxy knew they had to try and ambush the Atlanta United team before the 5 Stripe supporters could battle the Atlanta traffic and fill the nicest venue in the country raising the volume in Mercedes-Benz Stadium to levels that make it impossible to communicate.
Once Atlanta United weathered the LA Galaxy storm, it was business as usual for Josef Martinez and company. In the 13th minute, on Atlanta United’s first attempt on goal, Martinez finished a beautifully played ball by eventual Player of the Game winner, Yamil Asad. The native Argentinian diced up the right back, Rafael Garcia, on the left flank and got into the box where he picked out Josef Martinez, who, of course, had made the perfect run to the top of the 6-yard box to open the scoring for Atlanta United. The strike made 8 goals (17 on the season) for Martinez in the past 4 games and also brought Asad’s assist total to 11 on the season.
The goal electrified the sea of red and black, which urged United into relentlessly attacking an obviously shaken group of defenders for the Galaxy. Barely three minutes later, Atlanta United would strike again. This time it would be Asad who would excite the crowd with a finish from 15 yards out. Tito Villalba got off a great strike which was blocked and rebounded out to Miguel Almiron. Almiron would have his chance saved off the line to a wide open Asad who was ready to finish. With the crowd, all settled in and a chance to make a statement, the 5 Stripes stepped on the throat of the Galaxy to eliminate any chance of a comeback from the Californians. With the crowd volume in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, LA Galaxy looked very unorganized in the back, and they were having a hard time communicating, which made it easy for Atlanta United to attack with passion and precision.
Before the supporters could come up with their next chant, in the 20th minute, Asad would strike again, making it 3 goals in a matter of 7 minutes for Atlanta United! After breaking into the penalty area, Almiron played a clever through ball to Tito, who then found Asad making a diagonal run at the edge of the defense in front of the goal. Asad flicked the ball into the net for his second goal in a matter of minutes, which surely brought the noise level to unheard of decibels! Almiron and Villalba were credited with assists on the play. Rarely does this scoring frenzy happen at any level, besides maybe in a lopsided high school match…but not in professional soccer. Not only that, but the goals Atlanta United scored were quality goals. What makes the 5 Stripes so difficult to defend is that they can beat teams in a variety of ways. They can beat you centrally after possessing in the midfield, they can attack the flanks with overlapping runs and crosses into the box, and finally, if they need to, they can counter teams who feel like they are in control of the game! Atlanta United are a joy to watch, period!
As the half continued, Atlanta United would continue attacking and creating chances. LA would have a few chances here and there, but nothing that Guzan had to save. Anything lofted into the air was taken care of easily by either the captain Michael Parkhurst, or LGP, who was a welcome sight to have back in the line-up!
Jermaine Jones was shown a red-card for a violent conduct foul. After minutes of review, the red-card was upheld, and Jones slowly walked off the field. After the long wait, Atlanta United would score again, literally within seconds of the restart! Asad, obviously wanting to even his stat line, played a through ball to Almiron, who outran the Galaxy center-backs and finished his 9th goal of the season by chipping the Galaxy keeper, Jon Kempin. Asad finished with 2 goals and 2 assists on the evening, which deservedly earned him the “Player of the Match” award. The game would head into halftime with Atlanta United leading LA Galaxy 4-0.
The second half was totally different. Galaxy looked like they wanted just to go ahead and get on the plane back home, and Atlanta looked like they wanted to set the passing record! The 4-0 lead was perfect for United as they could rest legs, give Almiron and Martinez some much-needed bench time as they were subbed out, and give some guys like Brandon Vazquez some minutes. Unfortunately for the 18-year-old Vazquez, his time was cut short, as he was shown a straight red-card for what was called, “violent conduct.” A review of the foul was upheld, and Vazquez had to leave the field. It was an unfortunate call on Vazquez, a young player with a ton of promise and potential.
Another quality win for Atlanta United! This Saturday Atlanta United face off against Montreal Impact at Mercedes-Benz Stadium at 7:00. Come on out and join the 5-Stripe party!