Atlanta United defeated the Houston Dynamo 5-0 Wednesday night in front of 42,557 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Josef Martinez scored twice while Darlington Nagbe, Brandon Vazquez and Julian Gressel each scored to extend Atlanta’s home unbeaten streak to eight matches. It was the sixth consecutive game Martinez scored, tying the sixth-longest streak in MLS history. With the win, Atlanta moved into second place in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta found itself with a one-man advantage in the sixth minute when Houston’s Alberth Elis was sent off for making contact with referee Chris Penso. Darlington Nagbe then opened the scoring in the 27th minute with his first goal with the team. Nagbe started the play by passing to Emerson Hyndman at the top of the box where the midfielder quickly found Julian Gressel down the right side. The German sent a low cross to the center of the box where Nagbe one-timed a shot into the top left corner.
Martínez scored his 14th goal of the season in the 60th minute when he headed in a cross from Gressel at the edge of the six-yard box while crashing into an onrushing Tyler Deric. Martinez added a fourth goal in the 79th minute. Eric Remedi played the Venezuelan into the box with defender Matias Vera on his back. Martinez cut the ball back on to his left foot as Vera collided with Deric and took one touch before firing a shot into the top left corner. It marked Martinez’s 17th career multi-goal match and as of tonight has scored against every team in MLS.
Gressel scored Atlanta’s final goal in the 88th minute. Martinez sent in a cross from the left side intended for Pity Martinez, but the ball took a deflection and skipped through the box for Gressel at the back post where the German buried a shot past Deric.
Now that Atlanta United are in second in the east, it’ll be interesting to see where they close out the season. With injuries piling, no permanent solution at left-back, and the elephant on the pitch (the rift between the players and coach), they literally control their own destiny. If de Boer actually plays the guys in their natural positions (like tonight) he’ll be able to manage the most out of them regardless of the tension.
Atlanta United (10-8-3, 33 points) returns to action Sunday, July 21 against D.C. United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (4:00 p.m. EST, ESPN, Sports Radio 92-9 The Game).
Photo: Courtesy of ATLUTD