After a 3-1 victory last week against DC. United, Atlanta played host to the Vancouver Whitecaps at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Five Stripes came out in a 3-4-1-2 formation with Franco Escobar, Michael Parkhurst, and Leandro Gónzalez-Pirez holding down the backline while Ezequiel Barco is out with an injury (Greg Garza was left on the bench). Since the two striker formation worked the week prior, Gerardo “Tata” Martino tapped Tito Villalba to join Josef Martinez in attack.
In the 8′, Atlanta United found themselves in the Whitecaps’ final third with a free kick just outside the 18-yd box. The set piece created quite the calamity as LGP went down immediately due to a Kendall Waston elbow, Escobar missed a clear goal opportunity from five yards out, and after the game stopped for eight minutes (due to VAR) Martinez was awarded a penalty and Waston was given a red card (for the elbow to LGP). After Waston finally left the pitch, Martinez converted his penalty try to give the Five Stripes the 1-0 lead.
In the 20′, another opportunity came when Martinez nailed a beautiful header on the back of his head that went just wide of the post.
In the 33′ United found themselves in a 3-v-1 but failed to convert. An errant pass went to Martinez who tried to salvage the overhit pass and hit a low cross (across the face of goal) to Miguel Almirón who slid for the tap-in but was a half second too late.
The chances kept coming for United but they couldn’t convert. Almirón was served an easy low cross in the 43′ that looked like a for-sure goal but his touch was too hard and went just wide of the post (from about five yards).
In the 58′ disaster struck for the Whitecaps when a low cross from Julian Gressel was deflected by center back Aaron Maund into his own netting.
Just seconds later, Martinez scored on a 1-v-1 with the goalkeeper to increase their lead to 3-1.
In the 84′, Vancouver took a chip at the lead when Erik Hurtado beat Michael Parkhurst on a beautiful long-ball and tapped the ball wide of Brad Guzan.
The homegrown Andrew Carleton notched his first professional assist with a wonderful cross to Martinez who headed the ball past the keeper. With that goal, Martinez notched a hat-trick and now leads the league in goals scored (4).
Things seemed to be heading United’s way with the match winding down when catastrophe hit The Five Stripes. Brad Guzan collided with new signing Franco Escobar and had to leave the match on a stretcher.
My man of the match is Josef Martinez. He finished with four goals, notched yet another hat-trick, and that hat-trick (his fourth) is one shy of the MLS record (5). The accomplishment would be incredible but Josef didn’t seem too concerned about it post-match. “I don’t know, hopefully, I can get it but I just want to (show appreciation) and thank my teammates,” he said. “We wanted to ratify the performance that we had last week but I didn’t know about the hat trick. I’m just trying to ratify the performance and keep getting better.”
In two weeks Atlanta United will travel to Minnesota to take on the Loons of Minnesota FC.
Photo: Hakim Wright