Two days after the MLS All-Star Game we’re back to league action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta United hosted the defending league champs Toronto FC. What should’ve been an easy victory for United ended as a 2-2 draw.

With five players returning from All-Star duty on top of injuries and suspensions, Tata Martino switched to a 3-4-1-2 formation. “I used it because I wanted someone paired with Eric Remedi,” said manager Tata Martino after the match. Eric Remedi and Kevin Kratz got to start for United and Barco once again was left off the team sheet serving a suspension.

After dominating the entire first half, a lapse in judgment by Leandro Gónzalez-Pirez turned the ball over to Toronto. Jozy Altidore held the ball and eventually laid it off to a streaking Auro. Auro smashed a low cross past the face of goal to the foot of Sebastian Giovinco. In a matter of seconds, Toronto pounced on a chance and took the lead going into the break.

Atlanta United’s Tito Villalba takes an attempt on goal in the first half against Toronto FC

In the second half, Martinez had an opportunity in the box but was fouled by Toronto goalkeeper Alexander Bono. After VAR review it was declared a penalty kick, Martinez took the kick from the spot and gave Atlanta a much-needed goal to tie the game 1-1.

Just a few minutes later in the 66′, Mr. Cabezazo scored a header to give United the lead 2-1 and inched him closer towards breaking the all-time MLS record and extending his hat-trick record. That was his 45th goal in 44 games.

Toronto’s Tosaint Ricketts was on the end of a brilliant low cross to toe poke the match-tying goal to end the match 2-2. It was close, with the referee having to consult his earpiece to be sure that the goal would stand. But what looked offside to us in the press box was clearly a different view for referee Armando Villareal and the goal stood.

So Atlanta United allowed both goals to happen in the dying embers of each half. First before the half and the second in the 90′. These type of defensive slip-ups are what they’ll have to work on before the playoffs or they’re bound to see a repeat of last season.

A rivalry match in the world of football rarely goes without a high degree of physicality. As the match ended, it did get chippy between Miguel Almirón and a rash of Toronto FC players. Leandro Gónzalez-Pirez arrived on the scene to stand up for his teammate but was abruptly shoved in the face by Chris Mavinga. Mavinga was immediately issued a red card even though the match was over.

“I saw nothing,” stated Miguel after the match. “I already had my back turned and was heading off the field.” Tata echoed this in the post-game press conference saying, “I don’t know what happened, I walked out to shake Greg Vanney’s hand and walked off the field.”

The five stripes will have a nice break before their next match. On August 19 they’ll travel to Columbus to take on the Crew, the club that ended their championship hopes early last season.


-Jon J.

Photo: Courtesy of ATLUTD

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