Atlanta United FC and The King Peach (their white away kits) were hosting MLS newcomers Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC). Atlanta comes into the match riding high off their last win while LAFC is looking to bounce back from their epic derby match with LA Galaxy that ended in a 4-3 loss.
Atlanta United started in a 3-5-2 formation with Mikey Ambrose and Julian Gressel on the wings. The three-man backline consisted of Michael Parkhurst, Chris McCann, and Miles Robinson (making his debut).
The drama started immediately at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when United’s Chris McCann was given a red card on a questionable tackle in the first minute. Thankfully, after deliberating and implementing the use of VAR, the red card was rescinded and McCann was given a yellow.
In the 16′, The Five Stripes had penetrated LA’s back line. That’s when Miguel Almirón sent a screaming low cross whizzing past the front of goal to the feet of Julian Gressel (after a diving Josef Martinez attempt) to take the lead 1-0.
But Josef would eventually get his goal in the 68′ when Gressel lobbed a far post ball to Martinez who nailed a sweet header into the back netting.
In the 85′ Miguel Almirón was fouled in the box (which resulted in him rolling three times almost hitting the boards) but initially, there was no call given. Thanks to VAR he was awarded a penalty kick which he converted to give United the 3-0 lead.
As if seven added minutes of stoppage time wasn’t enough, LAFC’s João Moutinho was called for a handball while defending a set piece in his own box (it was his second yellow so he was ejected). That resulted in another penalty kick for Almirón which he converted to increase the lead to four goals.
In the bowels of stoppage time, an unsuspecting goal came from Romario Williams. On a 2 v 2, instead of attempting a low cross to Andrew Carleton, Williams cut left and opted to go near post (right) with a low strike. “I am happy with him (Williams) just like I was last year when Brandon (Vazquez) was able to come in and score off the bench,” said United manager Tata Martino.
The referee finally called the match after that final goal to hand LAFC their second straight loss. Almirón finished with two goals while Martinez, Williams, and Gressel finished with one apiece.
My Man of the Match goes to Julian Gressel who notched one goal and an assist. Gressel was also the Golden Spike recipient for the night which drew excitement with the fans who affectionately call him “Gresselmania.” A five-nil win just days before they have to host an Eastern Conference match with New York City FC probably bodes well for their confidence. “Our confidence level is good,” said a very relaxed Miguel Almirón. “That’s good for us. We know that we can’t stop working. We’ve got another difficult game coming up.”
The scoreline doesn’t accurately reflect the events that took place but as an old wise man once told me, “A wins a win.”
Photo: Hakim Wright