Atlanta United finally got a much needed comfortable home win.
Despite still being near the top of the Supporter’s Shield standings, Atlanta United have had a bad habit of dropping points this season in the final 10 minutes. Most recently against Toronto, where both of their goals occurred in stoppage time of the first and second halves. The 3-1 victory had to feel good for the squad. It also had to have somewhat rinsed the sour aftertaste of not only the Toronto match but also the disappointing playoff exit to the hands of the crew last October.
There would be no such letdown Sunday afternoon at the Benz. Josef Martinez scored his 27th (and came inches from his 28th) and Tito Villalba and Miguel Almiron also scored in the 2nd half to secure the victory for the Five Stripes.
Through the first 30 minutes neither team was able to get much going toward the goal. Columbus was also doing a good job containing Josef Martinez. But as Atlanta does so well, they were able to get out in transition which led to a left footed screamer into the back of the net for goal number 27. Josef now sits tied atop the list for all time goals scored in a MLS season with 9 matches still remaining on the season.
Atlanta would head into halftime leading 1-0. They would however start the second half sluggish and concede a goal just 5 minutes into the second half. Gyasi Zardes netted the equalizer in the 50th minute. A few minutes later, Columbus came within a great Brad Guzan save from jumping out to a 2-1 lead.
Things appeared shaky at that point for Atlanta but they would dig down. Josef came within inches of breaking the record in the 69th minute as his header fell off the crossbar. After a questionable (to Columbus at least) no call on a handball, Atlanta was off to the races. Tito Villaba and Josef Martinez streaked downfield and Tito fired a rocket past Zack Steffen to put the Five Stripes up 2-1. One could argue that Tito could’ve dropped the ball off to Josef but at the end of the day all that matters is that we scored.
In the 82nd minute, Josef again came close to history but elected to send the ball off to Miguel Almiron who sent an absolute laser. It was a much needed goal for Miggy who has struggled finished all season long.
The much needed win puts Atlanta United at 51 Points (25 GP 2.04 PPG 15-4-6) on the season with 9 games remaining. If they continue at this pace they would match the MLS record of 69 points set by Toronto just last season. Also of note: Saturday Evening New York Red Bulls Draw (48 Points 24 GP 2 PPG) and NYCFC Loss (47 Points 25 GP 1.88 PPG), had favorable results to put Atlanta in sole possession of 1st in the East and Supporter’s Shield Standings. If Atlanta manages to finish the season 4 points clear of NYCFC, an automatic berth to the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League will be scored.
Continue on to the next page for a full scoring and statistical breakdown and a look ahead to what’s next.