With Almiron and Villalba both out in what was one of the less exciting ATL UTD home matches, the 5 Stripes pulled off a victory against the Chicago Fire last Sunday.
Finally playing at the Benz again after a series of road games, Atlanta United clinched their CONCACAF Champions League 2019 spot with a home win over Chicago and are set to participate in international competition next year.
Many speculations were made due to the absences of the big name players like Miguel or Tito in this match and just how Tata Martino would tinker with the lineup to make up for their play-making creativity (Almiron) and explosiveness down the width of the pitch (Villalba). However, the starting XI more than held their own against the Men in Red.
Atlanta United, armed in a 4-3-3 formation, gave homegrown Andrew Carleton the nod to start as well as Ezequiel Barco, both of which tend to come on as subs throughout the game.
After only 9 minutes, Defender Franco Escobar received the perfect opportunity to give the 5 Stripes the lead and he was able to convert. A fortunate pass/stumble from Martinez saw Escobar with the perfect angle to the goal and tapping it in was all it took. This was the Right Back’s first MLS goal and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Chicago Fire were able to remain level with ATL UTD as De Leeuw scored in the 24th minute but their celebration was short lived.
Chris McCann sent a cross in that took a deflection and ended up in the back of Chicago’s net. An own goal only 2 minutes after their first goal made sure Atlanta stayed on top.
The stars aligned and everything seemed to go Atlanta’s way this past Sunday as we remain atop of the Eastern Conference table (as well as tying the MLS point record). However, with the New York Red Bulls still only 1 point behind us, like they have been for the larger part of the regular season, the pressure is still on and it’s going to come down to the final week of action to see which team walks away with the highly coveted MLS Supporters’ Shield.
Arturo Principe | @ArturoPrincipe1