Atlanta United defeated the Portland Timbers 2-0 to lift the MLS Cup as well as the dreaded Atlanta sports curse. The win has officially cemented Atlanta as a soccer city and has changed the blueprint on how to construct an MLS club. The night’s attendance was a staggering 73,019, a new Atlanta United and MLS Cup record.
Atlanta United dominated possession to start the first half with fluid movement offensively and above average play on the wings.
Both teams were pretty aggressive coming out but it was clear in the beginning that referee Alan Kelly would “let the boys play.” Three hard fouls were committed between the two clubs with the guilty parties escaping unscathed. One of those fouls came in Portland’s penalty area when Josef Martinez was de-cleated and the referee waved play on.
The chances and creation were there for Atlanta but they either didn’t finish or there was a disconnect halfway through. Miguel Almirón received a nice backheel from Greg Garza but when he tried to return the favor the pass was misdirected.
In the 28′, Greg Garza sent a beautiful cross to Miguel Almirón. The Paraguayan international then connected with a bicycle kick that was mere inches away from goal but Portland keeper Jeff Attinella parried the ball out of bounds.
In the 38′ there was confusion on the Timbers backline and Martinez found his moment and took it. The Golden Boot winner calmly dribbled around the goalkeeper and scored the first goal of the match.
In the 42′, the Timbers responded with an attack of their own. An errant cross came to Jeremy Ebobisse who headed the ball to the far post but was deflected away by the paw of Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Portland came out strong in the second half but their attack was quelled in the 53′ of play. An absolutely beautiful ball was played from a spot kick by Almirón into the box. The ball was initially headed by Martinez to the back post and just when it looked like the ball would cross the touch-line, Franco Escobar was there for the tap in.
Portland almost hit paydirt in the 62′ minute when Sebastian Blanco hit a line-drive to Brad Guzan and bobbled the ball. Luckily Michael Parkhurst was there to clear the ball out of bounds.
Portland would continue to get chance after chance but would never find the back of the net in the end.
Atlanta United dominated the match from start to finish, leaving Portland playing catch-up from the first whistle.
“It’s crazy to think this is real, its been a crazy year,” said an ecstatic George Bello. “We deserve this, all of us, we deserve this. I’m lost for words right now.”
“This is unbelievable,” said Lagos Kunga. “Thank you so much for supporting me and the team all season long. The love has been unreal.”
A victory parade has been tentatively scheduled for Monday, December 10 at 10 a.m. Check atlutd.com for details.
What a night. What a win. What a birthday (shameless plug).
(More photos forthcoming)