MLS SOCCER

Five Stripes earn victory in Portland

Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Pity Martinez celebrate the first goal of the night against Portland. Atlanta won 2-0 against Portland

Just like MLS Cup in 2018, Atlanta United defeated Portland Sunday night 2-0 at Providence Park.

The road victory for the Five Stripes became the team’s first since May, a 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps. The win by Atlanta also moved the team to first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time this season. Atlanta and Philadelphia are both tied with 45 points but the Five Stripes have the upper hand in the tiebreaker since they have one more win than the Union.

“Just feels good to win. You know in general after long flights like this, long trips like this, we said it that we’ve got to reward ourselves on the road especially. We did that tonight. Good performance. And yeah, three points,” Julian Gressel said. 

In a match where both teams had early scoring opportunities, it was Atlanta’s Leandro Gonzalez Pirez who scored the first goal of the night at the 14th minute. The scoring play started off a corner kick by Pity Martinez, in which Josef Martinez attempted a shot at goal but it was saved by goalkeeper Steve Clark. The Timbers goalie was unable to hold on to the ball and then defender Julio Cascante, attempted to clear the rebound but the ball fell in front of  Gonzalez Pirez, who tapped the ball into the back of the net for an early lead.

That was the first goal by Gonzalez Pirez this season and his third in his MLS career.

Then, seconds into the second half, Josef Martinez scored the insurance goal after receiving a through pass from Gressel. After Josef received the ball and with goalkeeper Clark about to rush out of his goal, Josef was able to perfectly place the ball into the upper right corner from about 20 yards out. 

With the goal, Josef has now scored in 11 straight MLS games and 13 overall, including U.S. Open Cup and Campeones Cup. Also, goalkeeper Brad Guzan earned his 12th clean sheet of the season, which ties the record from 2017. 

The Five Stripes will resume MLS play Friday night when the team will travel to Orlando. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. 

Man of the match

This road victory by the Five Stripes would had not been a reality had it not been for the amazing display of goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

The Atlanta goalkeeper came away with five saves, including one late in the second half that is considered by many to be in contention for save of the year. With a busy schedule ahead, this win is a big boost of confidence as earning three points at Providence Park is not an easy task to do.

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