Atlanta United defeated New England Revolution 1-0 Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of 66,114 fans and advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Franco Escobar scored the game-winning goal in the second half for his fifth career goal with Atlanta and his third in the playoffs. Atlanta will host the winner of the Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls match next week on Thursday, Oct. 24.
Ten minutes in, Atlanta United had a solid chance off a New England mistake in the back. Ezequiel Barco intercepted an errant back pass that deflected to Josef Martinez. The Venezuelan international laid the ball off for Barco in attack which setup a 1 v 1 with the keeper but he skied his shot over the crossbar.
In the 36′ minute, Atlanta United was caught on their heels during a Revolution counterattack. Cristian Penilla found the ball just outside Atlanta’s 18 and fired a finesse shot to the far corner, forcing Brad Guzan to make a diving save. He would end the day with a clean sheet after a six-save performance, his single-match playoff career-high with the club.
Atlanta United was attacking in the 68′ minute and for the second time in the match, a possible foul in the box was overlooked. This time, Ezequiel Barco was taken down inside the 18 without a second look from the referee. But the man who won their first cup, Franco Escobar, came up with the much-needed goal just two minutes later. Barco laid off a ball into space for Escobar, who attacked from the right side and with his right foot, fired a shot into the near-side top corner.
The insertion of Florentin Pogba and Tito Villalba were key substitutions made by manager Frank de Boer. Pogba’s presence means size, strength, and quality while Villalba is widely known for his pace. His speed created two chances on goal late in the 80th minute.
Josef Martinez had an unbelievable chance in a 1 v 3 without support but the keeper parried his attempt away. Pogba, for a third time, lofted a beautiful ball into space for Tito Villalba to use his pace and break through the backline. His pace caused him to run out of space and the goalkeeper cleared the ball for a corner kick.
Nerves were tight in the opening moments of stoppage time as Michael Parkhurst, Atlanta United’s captain, went down with an arm injury that stopped the match for six minutes. The club’s first-ever captain announced his retirement once the season concluded. He was helped off by two trainers, one holding his arm in place, and went straight for the tunnel. There he was immediately placed in an ambulance and taken to the hospital.
This injury puts Atlanta in a bit of a bind. “I doubt Miles Robinson will be able to play next week,” said de Boer after the match. Being down two centrebacks means a higher likely hood he’ll pull a Tata move and put Jeff Larentowicz on the backline or he’ll start Florentin Pogba.
New England had one last chance from a corner kick in the 99′ minute, but Brad Guzan rose to the occasion and tapped the ball over the crossbar to clear it for good measure.
Shots: 14-14 Tied
Shots on Target: 6-5 New England
Corner kicks: 7-7 Tied
Fouls committed: 13-9 New England
Clearances: 15-13 Atlanta
Offside: 4-3 New England
Possession: 55-45 Atlanta
Passing Accuracy: 83-80 Atlanta
Atlanta will host the winner of the Philadelphia vs. New York Red Bulls match on Thursday, Oct. 24 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2, Sports Radio 92-9 The Game). Atlanta held on for its fifth all-time clean sheet in the playoffs.
Photo: Courtesy of ATLUTD