Atlanta United defeated New England Revolution 3-1 Sunday afternoon in front of 44,617 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the regular-season finale. Darlington Nagbe, Josef Martinez and Julian Gressel each scored to solidify Atlanta’s spot as the No. 2 seed in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, where it will once again play New England Revolution in Round 1 on Oct. 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. With the win, Atlanta finished with 58 points, the most by a defending MLS Cup Champion in the post-shootout era.
New England nearly found the opening goal less than two minutes into the match when Cristian Penilla sprinted in on goal alone, but Brad Guzan rushed off his line to deny the forward’s initial attempt and Penilla sent the ball sailing to the left of the post on the rebound.
Atlanta quickly responded, scoring a minute later through Nagbe. Martinez received a pass on the edge of the 18-yard box and passed to Gressel on the right-wing. The German sent a low cross towards the center of the box where Nagbe redirected the ball into the bottom left corner for his second tally of the season.
The Revolution, however, equalized in the eighth minute. After a long clearance from the New England defense, the ball fell for Penilla just past midfield. He was one-on-one with Guzan and finished with a shot to the bottom left corner.
Atlanta regained the lead just four minutes into the second half. Gressel received a pass from Ezequiel Barco on the right side of the field in Atlanta’s defensive third and sent a through ball through the New England defense, springing Martinez in on goal. The Venezuelan dribbled into the box before drilling his shot into the upper left corner. It was Martinez’s 27th goal of the season.
Gressel extended Atlanta’s lead in the 57th minute from a corner kick. Barco delivered the corner into the center of the box where Martinez flicked it back to Gressel who was positioned just outside of the penalty area on the right side. Unmarked, Gressel struck the ball on the half volley, sending his shot off the left post and into the net for his sixth goal of the year.
In the 79th minute, Michael Parkhurst checked in for Gressel in the final regular-season appearance of his career, No. 301. The 17’s chanted his name for what seemed like 20 minutes. He would be honored after the match as well as join the club for a celebratory lap around the pitch.
Shots: 19-18 Atlanta
Shots on Target: 9-4 Atlanta
Corner kicks: 13-5 Atlanta
Fouls committed: 10-10
Clearances: 24-14 New England
Offside: 4-3 New England
Possession: 51-49 Atlanta
Passing Accuracy: 82-80 New England
Atlanta United (18-12-4, 58 points) will face New England Revolution Oct. 19 in Round 1 of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Photo: Courtesy of ATLUTD