Carlos Vela continues to stun teams on a historic week with his signature left-foot curler following this past Sunday’s draw in Minnesota.
Last weekend, Vela gave the Black & Gold another opening goal for the second straight match. The goal was Vela’s 31st of the season, tying him with Josef Martinez for most in a season in MLS history.
Although the captain came dangerously close to breaking the record on the same night – he left the big moment for Decision Day.
The star striker has only missed three games this entire season. And his dedication to the team is upstanding. For example, he was seen on the sideline coaching his teammates after being taken out due to an injury. In the postmatch interview after their clash with Minnesota United – Vela continued to credit his team in aiding his success:
For the fifth time in 2019, Vela appeared on Team of the Week, and is currently leading the league in three categories: (31) goals, (154) shots, and, (67) shots on goal and ranks second in the Audi Player Index Ratings. In addition to being voted the MLS Player of the Month for March of the 2019 MLS season.
Aside from breaking league and personal records, the former Real Sociedad player is having a great year. He was named to the 2019 MLS All-Star roster and given the captain’s armband for the second year in a row this summer.
LAFC has been on yet another historic run this season – winning the 2019 Supporters’ Shield to secure the Western Conference; giving the Black & Gold home-field advantage throughout playoffs and are a win away from setting the new record for most points in a single season.
The 30-year-old has been part of the “DP Trio” with Diego Valeri and Brian Rodriguez. Sunday marked their third-straight match together. And the results looked promising – even though Rodriguez seemed to have trouble falling into place with the dynamic duo.
Hello again! Sorry for the lack of reporting from the ATL this month; I’ve been traveling for fun and work and haven’t had much time to write. In the meantime, though, Atlanta United have had an…interesting month. Let’s dive in to some quick recaps, shall we?
May 5th @ Chicago; W 1-2
May started out pretty well. The $15M kid, Ezequiel Barco got his first goal for the Five Stripes. Darlington Nagbe and Josef Martinez combined for the go-ahead goal. Over 100 ATLUTD supporters traveled for the eighth straight game undefeated.
May 9th vs SKC; L 0-2
Unfortunately, that undefeated streak didn’t go further. The first home loss of 2018 came at the hands of Sporting KC on a Wednesday night at the Benz. Tata made some lineup changes and there were some questionable calls, like Martinez’s goal called back as offside after Video Review.
One call that was (unfortunately) correct was the DOGSO red on ATL keeper Brad Guzan for taking Khiry Shelton down in the box in the 37th minute. ATL’s second and third goalies were both out with injuries and they had to sign 4th round draft pick (2018) Paul Christiansen to temporary hardship contracts for a couple of weeks. Christiansen did pretty well, getting a couple of good (maybe lucky) saves early on, but SKC ended up getting a couple of goals by him in the second half.
On a side note, my brother is no longer allowed to attend ATLUTD games. o_o And Tim Melia is a gosh-darn unicorn. That’s for you, @khoogs.
May 13th @ ORL; W 1-2
Atlanta United still have not lost to Orlando City (2-0-2). That is all.
(We play them two more times this year; I’m sure there will be MUCH more to talk about soon enough)
May 20th vs NYRB; L 1-3
*Sigh* This is where it gets ugly.
This game was the first home game I’ve missed in ATL’s short history. I screamed at the TV in my hotel room in El Salvador so many times, I’m surprised security wasn’t called. The refereeing, though…so bad.
I haven’t re-watched the game and I don’t want to, so all I can remember is that ATL lost the plot in the second half. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez got a yellow card for some reason, which meant he was out for the next game on accumulation.
Greg Garza got a straight red for a dangerous (but possibly unintentional) tackle, where he also re-re-re-injured his left shoulder (originally injured in the 2017 All-Star Game). Garza has been wearing a brace to keep his shoulder together since last season, but after this injury, he decided to go ahead and get the surgery to fix it rather than wait until a “better time.” He’s now out for four to six MONTHS. *crying emoji*
May 30th @ NE Revs; D 1-1
And finally, Wednesday night’s game. All in all, not a terrible game, but ATL has definitely had much better games. The New England Revolution‘s keeper practically stood on his head to make some really good saves. Barco and Miguel Almiron would have had a couple of goals each if it wasn’t for him. Martinez did manage to get a really easy goal when he caught NE’s defense sleeping.
There was some more slightly questionable refereeing in this game, although not as bad as in the previous two games. Kevin Kratz was called for a (soft) foul in the box and NE was given a PK, which they converted. Earlier in the game, however, Mikey Ambrose was not given a PK for a similar (soft) foul on the other side of the field. *shrug*
The next couple of weeks will be rather busy for ATLUTD, with four games in 11 days. I expect to see quite a bit of line up changes, especially for the US Open Cup game on 6/6. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) for Atlanta, we aren’t losing any players to the World Cup this summer, so I’m hoping to keep that first place spot for a while…
This past Saturday, March 24th, I was a witness to history – for the second time. I was at the season opener for ATL UTD’s USL team, ATL UTD 2. Season ticket holders for the first team were all given three free tickets for the USL team and after just one game, I was sold – and bought season tickets for them, too, even though they’re an hour away from me. It’s a chance to see guys on the first team roster that don’t usually get minutes in the Benz as well as some new guys who have yet to break into the first team.
All in all, it was a good time. The fans brought the noise and chants and the team brought the goals. ATL UTD 2 won the game 3-1 over NYRBII. After watching that first game, there’s no doubt this team will be fun to watch this year.
And now, back to the first team. Coming off a home opener that saw Atlanta United finally get that D.C. United raccoon witch curse off their backs, it was time to figure out how to defeat the tallest team in the league. Some will say we got “lucky” on St. Patrick’s Day, but Vancouver Whitecap‘s Kendall Waston was awarded a red card early in the game for an elbow to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez‘s head on a corner kick. That red card was later rescinded by an Independent Panel after the Whitecaps filed an appeal. Waston’s reaction to the red card will never not be funny, though.
Kendall Waston thought Leandro Gonzalez Pirez had been given a straight red card in #ATLvVAN, only to realize that it was actually being shown to him:
After Waston’s exit, it was pretty much all Atlanta. Josef Martinez had an amazing game – and got his fourth MLS-career hat trick. Atlanta’s own Andrew Carleton got some actual first team minutes and notched an assist on Josef’s third goal of the night, which ended up being the MLS Goal of the Week.
There were a few not-so-good things that came out of that game, too, though. Miguel Almiron still hasn’t found his right foot; Franco Escobar got a knee or elbow to the head from goalie Brad Guzan and is currently in concussion protocol, so not sure if he’ll be playing this week or not; and LGP and Michael Parkhurst still have some work to do on communicating in the back and not letting those “consolation” goals through.
This weekend’s game is at Minnesota United FC – possibly in the snow again. Last year, we defeated them 6-1 at home and Josef got his first hat-trick. They defeated us at the Benz last year, but I think we got this one. Bring on the orange ball!
In other news:
We’re nearing the end of #BarcoWatch2; there’s a tiny possibility of him playing in MN this weekend, but more likely that he’ll play vs LAFC at home next week. *Fingers crossed*
Carleton and Chris Goslin were called up to the U20s Men’s National Team last week and got a trip to Spain.
Miggy was called up for the Paraguay national team and Darlington Nagbe for the USMNT for the USAvPAR game in Cary, NC on Tuesday, 3/27. The US won the game 1-0. Both of the ATL UTD players played at least 90 minutes and no one was injured, so all of Atlanta is breathing a sigh of relief.
Since the Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened, Atlanta United have been unstoppable. Here’s a rundown of the stats for ATLUTD between 9/10-24:
5 home games
Have outscored opponents 19-3
2 hat tricks by Josef Martinez in back-to-back games
4 clean sheets for Brad Guzan
3rd place in the Eastern Conference
Still 2 games in hand vs most of the conference (only playing 1 Western Conference team in remaining 5 regular season games)
Going to a game at the Benz feels like going to a party. The huge tailgates before the weekend games (and slightly smaller ones on weekdays) just enhance that atmosphere. It feels like we’ve done nothing but party for 2 weeks straight.
So many goals to cheer for! NINETEEN GOALS in five games. Eight of those scored by Josef Martinez in the first four games – and back-to-back hat tricks! That guy knows how to put on a show!
When you score two hat tricks in the same week, well…
Last Wednesday, Yamil Asad had a great game, too. In a 4-0 drubbing of the LA Galaxy, Asad was involved in all of the goals, scoring two for himself and assisting on the other two. (Also note, the boys now wear suits when they arrive for games. *swoon*)
This Sunday, it was a little of everyone. Tito Villalba scored the first goal – another blast into the top 90 of the goal – which seems to be a sweet spot for him (see: Tito’s winning goal at Orlando City in July).
The other big news out of Sunday’s game was Miguel Almiron pulling up with a hamstring injury in the 17th minute. He was visibly upset walking off the field on Sunday and it was announced Monday that he will be out for a minimum of three weeks, which means he won’t be playing for Paraguay next week during the international break and may not be back until the last game of the season (vs Toronto) at the earliest.
With Sunday’s result, ATLUTD are now sitting alone in third place in the Eastern conference, just three points behind NYCFC and with a game in hand. Both teams play this Wednesday (ATLUTD hosts Philadelphia and NYCFC at Montreal).
ATLUTD will finally be caught up next week on games played after a trip away to New England and a home game vs Minnesota United – a game that should have been played in August, but was pushed back due to the MBS construction delays.
Other news of note this week:
ATLUTD have now scored more goals than any expansion team ever in MLS (63)
Homegrown players Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin and Justin Garces were all named on the 21-player roster for the U-17 World Cup in India, being played in October.
After his double hat trick performance last week, Josef Martinez was named MLS Player of the Week.
Yamil Asad was named to the MLS Best XI and Leandro Gonzales Pirez was “on the bench” for Team of the Week.
Kevin Kratz won Goal of the Week last week for his free kick goal vs New England; Tito Villalba’s rocket is up for Goal of the Week this week – and ATLUTD always wins the internet, so don’t be too surprised when Tito wins this one, too.
Anyway, back to the 4th… I’m now convinced that the ATLUTD players are summoning their strength with thunderstorms. Our last three or four home games have been delayed or nearly delayed because of lightning in the area and we’ve come out with three points. I mean, Josef Martínez and Miguel Almirón are superhuman anyway, so it’s a natural assumption, right?
San Jose Earthquakes came in with a surprising amount of energy for a team that played late Saturday night and traveled across the country. A minute and a half into the game, they scored their first goal. The scoreline remained 0-1 for the remainder of the first half. ATL had a bunch of shots, but nothing was getting past David Bingham.
It didn’t take long before San Jose’s schedule caught up with them, though. They were pretty sloppy throughout the game and Kofi Sarkodie was yellow carded in the 10th minute for a reckless tackle on Yamil Asad – a yellow that should have been a straight red. About 20 minutes later, though, Sarkodie picked up a second yellow for dragging Asad down in almost the exact same spot, and was sent off.
There were four other yellows in the first half of the game:
In the 15th minute to Anton Walkes for “unsporting behavior” (aka a bad tackle)
In the 18th minute to David Bingham for time wasting (who does that in the 18th minute?)
In the 42nd minute to Carlos Carmona for persistent infringement
In the 45th minute to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez for unsporting behavior
In the second half, there were three more cards:
Yellow card in the 74th minute to Jeff Larentowicz for a rough tackle in midfield
Yellow card in the 90th minute to Josef Martínez for “delaying the restart of play” (aka taking his jersey off while celebrating a goal)
And finally, in the 93rd minute a straight red went to Víctor Bernárdez for stepping on Martínez
So, yeah, it was sloppy all around – except for the goals. Oh, the goals. They were lovely. And Josef learned his lesson about not jumping on the fireboxes after a goal. He ran towards one after his first goal, but gave us in the supporters section a grin and a finger wag before he was swarmed by his teammates. (Although, the fireboxes don’t shoot fire during games after it’s been raining, so it wouldn’t have been a repeat of the last home game, but it’s good to know he learned his lesson after last time)
Here are all of the lovely, lovely goals from Tuesday night:
4 goals on July 4th with 44,974 of our closest friends
It was announced minutes before the lineup came out that starting goalkeeper Alec Kann picked up a left quad injury during the Columbus game on Saturday and would be out 6-8 weeks. That’s the same thing they said about Josef’s injury and he was out for 12 weeks. Kyle Reynish started for the first time on Tuesday and did well enough. Once the Gold Cup is over, we’ll also have Brad Guzan in rotation, so we’ll see how that goes…
Anton Walkes got his third start on Tuesday night and scored his first professional goal – a header off a set piece.
Also, we scored on a set piece! I don’t think that’s happened yet!
The fireworks after the game were really nice, too. It’s been a while since I went out on the 4th to see fireworks (mostly because I have a dog who strongly dislikes loud noises like thunder, fireworks, vacuum cleaners and leaf blowers).
So now we rest up for the last game at Bobby Dodd – and it’s gonna be a big one. ATLvORL for the first time in Atlanta. But first, the Five Stripes (still don’t love the nickname, but I’m trying) head down to Orlando on 7/21 for the first ever meeting between the two teams who’s fan bases are already rivals. I won’t be traveling for that one because my brother and his family (including my two nieces!!) will be in Atlanta for our grandmother’s 100th birthday party that weekend.
I will, however, be at Bobby Dodd for our final game there – and I’ll be taking over the MLSFemale Instagram account that day! I’m excited about taking over the IG account, but it’ll be a bit of a sad day – only because we’re leaving the stadium where we’ve watched our boys play for the last 4 months. Hopefully, there will be a good thunderstorm around 5pm that day so our superheroes can summon their powers and get lots of goals!
It’s been a busy few weeks for me and Atlanta United. I’ve lost count of how many games we’ve played in the last three weeks. Losses on the road and wins at home. But the important thing is that we’re currently sitting in 6th in the East, which puts us into the playoff race.
I’m writing this while watching the Miami FC vs ATLUTD US Open Cup game in Miami. I’m hoping to have a final score at the end of this article, but right now it’s 1-1 at the beginning of the second half.
These USOC lineups from coach Tata Martino have been interesting. Lots of the kids who don’t play much on the first team. Brandon Vazquez has been on fire – both in USOC, where he currently has two goals, and in regular season play, where he’s got one goal and an assist. This is a bit of a surprise, considering I didn’t think he did well at all in preseason play. I guess good coaching will do that, though. 🙂
In other news, JOSEF MARTINEZ IS BACK! And with a vengance! He played a full 90 minutes in the first USOC game two weeks ago vs Charleston (our USL affiliate) and scored a goal, but didn’t start in regular season games until this past weekend vs Colorado Rapids. He scored the only goal in that game (with an assist from Vazquez) and celebrated by nearly setting himself on fire.
His first goal in the regular season since coming back came a week and a half ago against Columbus Crew, when he came in as a sub. He stated after the game that he was a little emotional after the goal because he was so happy about getting the goal for all of the fans that were chanting his name before he came on. He may not know this, but so many of the supporters also had all the feels when he scored that goal. I was a little teary-eyed myself.
*USOC Update* – Miami just went up 2-1. On a #(@$*@%# set piece, of course. ATL still needs to work on defending set pieces. Sigh.
Back to the regular season…This month has been particularly rough and it’s not over yet. 2 games per week for 4 weeks. After this USOC game, the boys travel to Columbus to take them on at home and then return home for a 4th of July match vs San Jose Earthquakes. And then we get a break during the Gold Cup, although if we manage to win tonight, we will host the winner of CINvCHI on July 12.
*USOC Update 2* – Atlanta just tied up the game. A PK was awarded to us when Carleton was taken down in the box and Julian Gressel got the shot just under Miami’s keeper.
And there it is – Miami FC just defeated ATLUTD on a goal from Poku – OF COURSE. Poku has a habit of scoring the game winner in USOC games. I saw him do it 3 years ago when he was an Atlanta Silverback vs Real Salt Lake.
Ah well…back to focusing on the regular season, then!
I’ve been gone for a minute, but life gets busy sometimes, right? Anyway, y’all didn’t miss much. NYCFC came to the ATL and got dished up some revenge in the form of a 3-1 loss, then two losses away at Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Fire have kept Atlanta United hovering just below the line in the Eastern Conference at 5-6-3 on the season. One thing to note from these games: set pieces have been our downfall. We have got to get better at defending them AND using the opportunity when we get them. NO MORE SHORT CORNERS, PLEASE.
Things are just starting to get a little crazy schedule-wise for the Five Stripes. Last night was ATLUTD’s US Open Cup debut (more on that later), and the next three weeks before the Gold Cup break look like this:
Saturday, June 17: home vs Columbus
Wednesday, June 21: at DC United
Saturday, June 24: home vs Colorado
Wednesday, June 28: USOC round 5 at Miami FC
Saturday, July 1: at Columbus
Tuesday, July 4: home vs San Jose
Throw in a work trip next week for me and I’m exhausted just looking at this. I shouldn’t complain too much, though – this is nothing compared to what September looks like: SEVEN games in 20 days, six of which are home games. That doesn’t include the USOC final, should we make it that far, but an already rescheduled game vs LA Galaxy would have to be re-rescheduled for that. I may be in a coma by October.
In good news, Josef is back!! Martinez went in with about 30 minutes left in the Chicago game last weekend. He managed to make a couple of decent plays, but no goals and nothing spectacular to report. We’re all just SO happy to see him back on the pitch. The bar I was watching the game at got really loud when he stood up to be subbed in.
Wednesday night was ATLUTD’s US Open Cup debut vs their USL affiliate, the Charleston Battery – and what a night it was. The players were announced and had just lined up on the field for the national anthem when the game was delayed because of lightning in the area. A two hour and 42 minute delay later, it was game on.
The lineup was mostly Atlanta’s B team, with a few regular starters (Larentowicz, Almiron and Martinez).
Charleston did not come to Atlanta to lose. They played like it was a playoff game, even without a couple of their usual starters (including Romario Williams, who is on loan to the Battery from ATLUTD, but was called up to the Jamaican national team). Charleston went up early on a goal headed in by Forrest Lasso on a long throw in. ATL answered in the 30th minute with Kevin Kratz scoring his first ATLUTD goal. Charleston went up again just minutes after the ATL goal and almost got to 3-1 when a PK was called, but Woodbine skied the ball over the goal into the supporters crowd.
Down 1-2 at the half, coach Tata Martino was not happy, and he made a couple of subs at the half. Mikey Ambrose came in for Miles Robinson and Julian Gressel came in for Zach Loyd. Three minutes into the second half, we knew for sure Josef was back when he was sent a cross by Brandon Vazquez and headed it into the net. The go ahead goal was knocked in by Vazquez on a cross from Ambrose.
This morning we found out that Atlanta will travel to Miami in a couple of weeks to take on Miami FC – who currently field former Atlanta Silverbacks players Jaime Chavez and Kwandwo Poku. Poku is an ATL fan favorite because of his heroics in the 2014 USOC tournament that let the Silverbacks to the quarterfinals where they lost at home to Chicago. Also, Miami FC defeated Orlando City SC, and I may laugh about that one for a long time – especially if we win vs Miami later this month.
A few random tidbits from the last few weeks:
Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin traveled with the U-17s to Argentina for a friendly earlier this month.
Lagos Kunga played for the U-20s in the U-20 World Cup in South Korea; he did pretty well, from what I’ve read – including this goal.
Kenwyne Jones was called up to the Trinidad & Tobago National team for their WCQs and was injured during warmups for their game earlier this week.
Atlanta United announced this week that this weekend’s game vs Columbus is the sixth sellout this season (but soccer won’t do well in Atlanta, right?).
It was also announced this week that we won’t get Brad Guzan in town permanently until after the Gold Cup in July. Jury is still out on whether he will start or not when he gets here. Right now, it’s Alec Kann‘s job to lose, according to Tata.
I need to go rest up for Saturday’s game vs Columbus Crew. I have a feeling it’ll be an interesting one after their USOC loss to FC Cincinnati (30k+ in attendance! Holy cow!) last night. I will leave y’all with this, though – Greg Garza and his wife welcomed their second son into the world today – and who doesn’t love some soccer babies?
What else could I ask for? An unforgettable experience to see the joy on one’s face and experience LIFE. This pic is MY life. 🙏🏻👨👩👦👦 pic.twitter.com/4rhqwHs6tT
Atlanta United fans have a few things to be relieved about after Friday night’s 0-0 draw at Seattle. First, we got out of there with a point. Second, despite definitely missing our regular starters due to injury (Josef Martinez) and international play earlier in the week (Miguel Almiron, Carlos Carmona, Kenwyne Jones), we didn’t falter. And finally, no new injuries…that we know of.
As anyone who knows soccer knows, a 0-0 game can be really good or really bad. This one was really good. Possession was almost literally 50-50 (50.2% for Seattle Sounders to 49.8% for Atlanta, I believe), so there was a lot of back and forth. A few chances for both teams to get a goal, most notably Clint Dempsey‘s header that ricocheted off the post (I could kiss that post!) and Kenwyne Jones’ shot that was blocked by Cristian Roldan (dang it!), both in the second half.
Honestly, lots of us were very nervous about how this game would go. With Martinez injured and Almiron and Carmona not in the starting lineup, we didn’t know what to expect. Tito Villalba was the lone forward with Jacob Peterson and Chris McCann in the midfield to start. As much as I love Tito, I don’t think he’s a natural forward. Maybe it was because Seattle’s defense was all over him, but other than one run early in the game that was stopped by Stefan Frei, he didn’t really have any clear chances at goal.
Our defense, however, did an incredible job. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was a brick wall. There wasn’t much that got by him, which is why he was this week’s Man of the Match (from ATLUTD’s perspective). He’s really been outstanding so far this season. Local ATL guy Alec Kann made us nervous a couple of times, but managed to come out of this game with his second shutout.
I watched Friday’s game at a bar with about a hundred other faithful ATLUTD fans who made it to Buckhead despite the *minor* traffic rerouting on Friday. The first time Julian Gressel touched the ball, a huge roar of “GRESSELMANIA” filled the bar. And when Almiron was subbed in, he got a huge ovation from the crowd at Fado. Chris McCann’s wife was there with us, and she told a friend of mine that she enjoyed it and is planning to come back for other away games to watch with us, which was pretty awesome.
As far as injuries go, Greg Garza went down late in the game clutching his hip, which was distressing to many people who know his history. Fortunately, he did get back up and continue in the game, but it remains to be seen if he will be healthy enough to play next weekend in Toronto.
I’m so used to #ATLUTD scoring in the first 10 minutes of games. I don’t know what to do right now. 😟@MLSFemale
ATLUTD fans don’t know what to do with themselves when the boys don’t score within the first 10 minutes of a game. We may be spoiled.
The ATL players seemed a bit frustrated this week, I hope just because they were still adjusting to the new lineup. I haven’t looked back to compare, but the foul count seems rather high for us this game (18 for ATL, 7 for SEA).
Two yellow cards were given to ATL players; to Gressel in the 20th minute for a studs up slide on Roldan (that could have been a red, so phew!) and to Yamil Asad in the 43rd minute for a foul on Lodiero.
Interesting note: this was ATL’s first game on turf. Right now, at Bobby Dodd Stadium, they are playing on grass, but when we move to Mercedes Benz Stadium in July, they’ll be playing on turf.
The boys will be getting a better look at that turf this week when they finally move to the official training ground! I’m hoping for an open practice soon so I can check it out for myself.
Atlanta United’s second ever home game was even better than their very first game in MLS for a few reasons. First, ATL won 4-0 in front of another sellout crowd – and over 100,000 people have attended the first two home games. Second, the stadium crew had a slightly better handle on conditions in the building and it was a much better experience, at least from my perspective. Third, the vibe in the stadium was, as I’ve seen many times in the last 24 hours, electric.
Atlanta United got their first shutout and potential MLS Golden Boot winner (yep, I’m going there) Josef Martinez added another two goals to his tally. Martinez now has five goals and leads the league. His goals yesterday were spectacular.
The first came in the 60th minute when Miguel Almirón squeaked a pass through the gap that Martinez had left between Chicago Fire’s central defenders. Martinez took two touches, one drifting just far enough to his left to get around Jorge Bava, and it was in the back of the net.
His second goal in the 82nd minute saw him once again splitting the central defenders, this time with a pass from Yamil Asad. Martinez took one touch to get around Bava and then took a shot from a seemingly impossible angle.
The first goal of the game was an own goal for Chicago. MLS Rookie Julian Gressel nabbed a pass from Hector Villalba at the edge of the box and played a cross in front of the goal that was deflected in by Chicago’s Brandon Vincent.
The third goal was my personal favorite because it was my favorite player, Hector “Tito” Villalba who scored in the 67th minute to officially open his MLS account. Greg Garza sent a pass up to Martinez, but it was deflected by a Chicago defender and dropped right at Tito’s feet. After one touch to get in place, Tito launched that ball off his left foot right through Bava’s outstretched hands and into the back of the net. I’m not sure I’ve ever cheered as loud as I did at that moment.
While most of the crowd was busy celebrating the Goal-a-Palooza in the stands, others standing in line at the concession stands said that the lines were so much better this time around. At the home opener, there were not enough concession stands open and what was open was slow. I got in line for a hot dog and a bottle of water about 30 minutes before the game started and gave up about 25 minutes in. I left some money with a friend of mine in line and went back to watch the pre-game ceremonial stuff. The friend I left in line finally came by to hand me my food AFTER Atlanta’s goal (which was around the 25th minute of the game). She also nearly got in the middle of a fight in line. To say this week’s experience was an improvement would be a huge understatement.
There’s no doubt that the improved concessions in the stadium helped the mood of the crowd – maybe not as much as those four goals did, but nonetheless, the crowd was really into this game. The capos in the supporters section kept the chants simple and the sections were loud enough to get the rest of the stadium going. The A-T-L thunderclap and the “Atlanta! United!” call and response were SO LOUD. In person it was amazing to see the crowd coming together like that. When I watched videos last night of the chanting and watched the game again this morning, I may have shed a tear of joy. My friend Jason Longshore of Dirty South Soccer said it best in his Daily Dirt sub-heading today: “Atlanta United’s supporters earn an assist yesterday.”
As of 9:30pm ET on Sunday, Atlanta United are at the top of the Eastern Conference. ATL is also leading the league in goals scored with 11 and are currently in third place for the Supporters Shield. If anyone had asked me a month ago where I thought ATL would be in the standings three weeks in, I don’t think I could have predicted this.
Our next MLS game at Seattle on 3/31 will be a huge test. Three of the four ATLUTD players (Almiron [Paraguay], Martinez [Venezuela], Jones [Trinidad & Tobago], and Carmona [Chile]) that have been called up to their national teams this week are starters. How will the international break affect the team, especially against the defending MLS champions? Sure, we beat them 4-2 in preseason, but the Seattle Sounders played all of their bench and trial players. A few of their starters got subbed in late in the game, but we didn’t really get a sense of how ATL would fare against the Seattle starters.
Only time will tell, but I will be biting my nails off at a bar with my Terminus Legion family in 12 days anxiously watching the Five Stripes (not sure I’m in on this nickname yet, but I had to try it) take on Dempsey, JMO and that Seattle crowd.
I can’t begin to tell you how many weather reports for Minnesota I saw last week. Will it snow? How cold will it be at kickoff? Will it break a record? Turns out that Sunday’s Minnesota United vs Atlanta United game did break a couple of records – and not all due to the weather.
Lucky for me, I was warm and toasty at Fado Irish Pub in the Buckhead section of Atlanta with 100 or so of my closest friends watching the game. It was actually a bit chilly outside (in the 40s), but nowhere near as cold as it was in Minneapolis.
The weather did play a major factor in the game. The temperature hovered in the low 20s at kickoff, making it the coldest game in MLS history, just beating out the MLS Cup Final in Kansas City a few years ago. And the snow started to fall just before the game started and started sticking about 20 minutes in. It was so bad at one point that Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, ATLUTD’s left back, had to change his shoes because he couldn’t stay on his feet.
The other records, though, were of the goal variety.
Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez didn’t look remotely fazed by the weather as he opened his MLS account, probably because he spent some time playing in Switzerland. Three minutes into the game, Martinez ran straight through the Loons defenders and tapped the ball around John Alvbage. Ten minutes later, Miguel Almiron lofted a ball over Alvbage’s head into the roof of the net to make it 2-0 in favor of Atlanta. A quick pass from Almiron to Martinez in the 27th minute gave Josef a brace.
In the 30th minute, Jeff Larentowicz brought down Kevin Molino in the box and Minnesota were awarded a penalty, which caught Alec Kann going the wrong way. Kann did make up for it in first half stoppage time, though, with three back-to-back saves after a Minnesota corner kick that bounced around the box a few times.
The second half saw more goals by ATLUTD. Tito Villalba tried a cross to Martinez in the box, but it was deflected and bounced right in front of Almiron, who launched it into the back of the net with his (rather dangerous) left foot. Martinez earned his first hat trick after barreling through the Loons defense and skirting around the keeper again in the 75th minute. In the waning moments of the game, Greg Garza got a cross to a completely unmarked Jacob Peterson, who headed into the net.
I’m not much of an analyst – yet – but I can tell you Minnesota’s coaching staff needs to give some serious thought to their defensive strategy. There was no way their slow CBs were going to be able to keep up with our hyper-fast front line, snow or no snow. They were beaten – badly – every time. We’ll see where these two teams stand when they meet again later this season. In the extreme heat and humidity of Atlanta in August. One weather extreme to another.
The final tally was 6-1 in favor of Atlanta. A hat trick for Martinez, a brace for Almiron, and one goal for Peterson. Atlanta is the first expansion team to score six goals in a game their first season. It was the coldest game on record for MLS. And Martinez, Almiron and Garza all made the MLS Team of the Week, and coach Tata Martino was voted Coach of the Week. Not bad for some newbies!
The boys are back in ATL next Saturday for a 4pm game vs Chicago Fire. I am off to watch the highlights for Chicago’s first two games. I hear they’re starting off this season pretty well, so I’m eager to see how ATL does next week. See y’all then!