Atlanta United defeated Seattle Sounders, 4-2, on Saturday night at MUSC Health Stadium in the club’s second match of the 2017 Carolina Challenge Cup. Led by three first-half goals, including two in the first three minutes of the game, Atlanta built a comfortable lead to secure its second win of preseason. Each of the club’s three Designated Players scored during the win, with Josef Martinez scoring twice. He now has four goals in three preseason matches.
Martinez opened the scoring less than a minute into the match as he intercepted an errant pass from Sounders’ right back Branden Griffith, dribbled past goalkeeper Bryan Meredith and easily slotted in the opening goal. Two minutes later, Atlanta midfielder Julian Gressel was taken down inside the Sounders’ 18-yard box by Darrius Barnes to earn a penalty kick. Miguel Almiron stepped up to the spot and curled his shot to the right of an outstretched Meredith, giving Atlanta a 2-0 lead just three minutes into the contest.
Atlanta struck again in the 21st minute when Gressel played a through ball down the right side of the field to Tito Villalba who raced into the box and blasted a shot through the legs of Meredith to take a 3-0 lead. It was Villalba’s second goal of the preseason.
“I think in general, we’re fine,” Atlanta United head coach Tata Martino said. “And I think that there’s still things to work on, a little more rhythm, to keep playing, and to try to arrive in the best form possible for March 5.”
Early after halftime in the 47th minute, Martinez found the back of the net for the second time in the match, this time with a highlight reel chip over Meredith. Almiron supplied the assist.
Seattle ultimately cut the deficit in half with second-half scores from Henry Wingo in the 62nd minute and Will Bruin in the 75th. In addition, Gressel was sent off in the 68th minute for his second yellow card, but Atlanta outlasted the Sounders to pick up its second win of the preseason and first in the CCC.
“Today intensity wasn’t a problem,” Martino said. “The other day in the first game (Saturday against Columbus), it was a problem. But today the team was very intense and the problem was we were a little tired when we went down a player.”
Martino lined his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with starters Martinez, Almiron, Villalba, Gressel, Yamil Asad, Jeff Larentowicz, Greg Garza, Leandro Pirez, Michael Parkhurst, Tyrone Mears and Alec Kann. Miles Robinson and Mark Bloom started the second half while Brandon Vazquez, Kevin Kratz, Jacob Peterson, Harrison Heath, Mikey Ambrose and Andrew Carleton all entered as substitutes later in the match.
“I’m happy with what the team did tonight,” said Atlanta United Forward Josef Martinez. “We played better than in the first game. The important thing is that the team is gaining trust. I’m also happy with the work I did and the two goals. I’m looking forward to the next game and getting back home to Atlanta and then playing the first (official) game.”
Atlanta concludes its preseason slate against its USL affiliate, and CCC hosts, Charleston Battery Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. ET. The club then opens the MLS Regular Season against New York Red Bulls on Sunday, March 5, at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Atlanta United 4, Seattle Sounders 2
MUSC Health Stadium
Shots on Target: 6-4 Atlanta
Corner kicks: 8-4 Atlanta
Offsides: 3-0 Atlanta
Saves: 3-1 Atlanta
ATL – Josef Martinez 1’
ATL – Miguel Almiron (penalty) 3’
ATL – Hector Villalba (Julian Gressel) 21’
ATL – Josef Martinez (Miguel Almiron) 47’
SEA – Henry Wingo (Will Bruin) 62’
SEA – Will Bruin (Joevin Jones) 75’