Atlanta United faced off with Liga MX giants Club América for the second edition of the Campeones Cup. Mercedes-Benz Stadium was packed with yellow shirts in support of the visitors from Mexico City. A crowd of 40,128 watched on as the clash of champions turned into a five goal thriller.
Atlanta United repeated their attacking style from Sunday and went after Club América’s backline immediately. Jeff Larentowicz played a through ball to Emerson Hyndman who beat América’s Oscar Jiménez for the first goal of the match.
But América responded right back with a counterattack to notch their first goal of the match. Roger Martinez flew down the left flank with pace, dribbling by his opponent to the goal line. Once he reached the goal line, a low cross went through the box, past three defenders, and found Renato Ibarra. Ibarra was clinical and sure of foot as he sent the ball top-shelf past Alec Kann.
In the 38′ minute, Pity Martinez was brought down inside the 18. After an already chippy affair in the first half, VAR determined that it was indeed a penalty. Josef Martinez stepped up to the spot with his trademark stutter-step but Jiménez would not be fooled. Martinez’s shot was blocked once and when Martinez followed up, blocked again over the goal. The stadium erupted as América fans celebrated the quality efforts from their keeper.
Roger Martínez put his side ahead in the 57′ minute from a corner kick. Martínez was unmarked in front of goal and went for the tap-in. The initial attempt was blocked, but he followed up with another try that crossed the goal line to put Club América ahead by a goal.
Just two minutes after allowing América to take the lead, Jeff Larentowicz sent a rocket into the top-shelf from 20-yards out to get the home supporters riled up.
In the 63′ minute, Florentin Pogba was brought down in the penalty area, giving Josef Martinez an opportunity to redeem himself. He stepped up to the spot with confidence, leaving behind his trademark stutter, and was all business when he converted the try.
With Atlanta United leading 3-2, Club América responded with a relentless attack. Making their presence felt in Atlanta’s defensive third, Roger Martínez dribbled around defenders and tried to level the scoreline but his attempt went just wide.
In the 72′ minute things went bad for América as Bruno Valdéz was sent off for a foul on Josef Martinez. A minute later, Miguel Herrera was issued a yellow card for leaving the manager’s area and shouting at referee Joel Aguilar.
The match ended at 3-2 and Atlanta United was able to claim their first international trophy. “We struggled a bit in the beginning of the match,” said Atlanta midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. “Once we settled in the middle of the field we felt like we had a handle of the match.”
Atlanta United (13-9-3, 42 points) returns to MLS action Sunday, Aug. 18 at Portland Timbers (10:00 p.m. EST, FS1, Sports Radio 92-9 The Game).
Photo: Hakim Wright