Columbus survive penalty shootout to eliminate Atlanta from MLS Cup Playoffs

It’s a celebration for Atlanta as Atlanta United FC made it into the playoffs in their inaugural season in MLS. Their first test was a home match against the Columbus Crew. The starting XI welcomed back Miguel “Miggy” Almirón for the first time in a month after a hamstring injury. Michael Parkhurst had a knock from their last match against Toronto FC so Jeff Larentowicz started in his spot at center back.

Atlanta was in full-fledged attack mode the first half and saw copious chances on goal. None of these opportunities translated into goals but the pressure was mounted so fiercely against The Crew that at times it looked like they parked the bus.

United’s best chance in the first half was a left-footed howler by Miggy that ricocheted off the upper left crossbar.

Both clubs had long-range attempts clang off the woodwork throughout the match, but the one-time connection in attack for the Crew was the pivotal moment of the match. On the counter, a beautiful low cross cruised right through the penalty area and when Columbus’ Ola Kamara thought he was going to tally the go-ahead goal, Brad Guzan dove for his life and parried the ball to the turf. Turns out the flag was up for offsides anyways but you could hear a gasp from the fans and a hush mull over the stadium after that scare.

ATLUTD Supporters

The Columbus Crew showed weakness on the left flank while United was continuously exposed on the counter-attack. With both clubs repeatedly attacking the other’s weak area, the match couldn’t have been more exciting leading up to extra time.

In the 128′ it looked like Columbus was going to get the winning goal when they caught Brad Guzan out of the penalty area, but Michael Parkhurst ran for his life and cleared the ball off the line at the last second. The drama increased as the match moved into penalty kicks.

First up for United was Julian Gressel, who decided to aim to the lower left side goal but Crew keeper Zack Steffen blocked it wide.

Crew midfielder Federico Higuain snuck one past Guzan to give Columbus the lead.

Leandro Gónzalez-Pirez’s attempt was blocked, then subsequently Kekuta Manneh’s attempt was parried too.

Tito Villalba fired a rocket past Steffen but Niko Hansen found his way past Guzan.

With a number of shots blocked for United all Adam Jahn had to do was convert his penalty kick to send to Crew past United and on to New York to face NYCFC. Sadly, he converted his attempt and Atlanta United’s season. My man of the match was Brad Guzan. He wasn’t able to make many saves during the shootout but if it wasn’t for his antics during the 120′ of play we never would’ve made it to a shootout. He came up big for us against Toronto last week and even bigger tonight.

The Columbus Crew and their hashtag #SaveTheCrew survive the night and move on to the next round of the MLS Cup Playoffs after defeating Atlanta United (3-1) in penalty kicks. Stay tuned for our Atlanta United updates by checking our website or follow our social handles, all of which are @thepeachreview.

Let’s see what the offseason brings.

 

-Jon J.

*Photos courtesy of ATLUTD

 

 

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