It was the first meeting between the two clubs today in Portland, OR. The nationally televised match showed our Atlanta United taking on the best in the west in the Portland Timbers. Atlanta’s starting XI had a bit of tweaking done to it in preparation for today’s match. Kenwyne Jones was benched in favor of Tito Villalba as the lone striker. Julian Gressel was placed out wide (right side) and Mark Bloom got the start in place of Greg Garza at Left Wingback.
The first half fairly quiet as neither side was able to do much offensively. Miguel Almirón’s possession, passing, and dribbling in open space played a role in all of Atlanta’s opportunities. He had three chances where he should’ve taken shots on target but he opted to pass each time.
But twenty seconds into the second half, Julian Gressel took a nice first touch and shot near-post to notch Atlanta’s first goal (as well as his first MLS goal). But that celebration was quickly undone when poor defense on a Timbers’ set piece allowed an unmarked Liam Ridgewell to head in the tying goal. It could be argued he was offside but even on the replay, it was difficult to be sure.
In the 67′ the officiating missed a clear handball by the Timbers right in front of Alec Kann. The screams from United went unattended and play continued on (that was a definite handball).
Offensively, Atlanta is definitely missing the presence and explosive runs of Josef Martinez. I’m not sure if he’ll be ready for next week’s clash with the Houston Dynamo but I’m hopeful for the following match; the reverse fixture with New York City FC.
In stoppage time, Portland’s David Guzmán hit a nasty long-range volley just outside the 17-yard box that buzzed past Alec Kann but rang off the crossbar. That was Portland’s best chance in stoppage time.
Atlanta United will be disappointed about another match they should’ve won but will happily go home with the point from the 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers.
“It’s good to have played good soccer, but we left with our hands empty,” Atlanta United head coach Tata Martino said. “We were the better team.”
Shots: 13-7 Portland
Shots on Target: 4-3 Portland
Corner kicks: 5-4 Portland
Fouls committed: 19-9 Portland
Saves: 4-2 Atlanta
Clearances: 13-16 Portland
Offside: 2-1 Portland
Possession: 70-30 Atlanta
Passing Accuracy: 82-64 Atlanta
My Man Of The Match goes to our goalscorer, Julian Gressel. He had this to say about today’s result and their road form: “Our mentality has been good on the road so far, you kind of wish to pick up a win here or there, but it’s been good. We’ve been in games and we’ve grinded out results and that’s what you’ve got to do on the road and hope you get lucky here or there to punch three points. We’re excited to be at home two games in a row.”
*Photos courtesy of ATLUTD