Atlanta United has been looking forward to getting back home in front of their home support for weeks, and they showed it on Wednesday with a statement 3-0 win over fellow 2017 expansion side Minnesota United Wednesday.
A slight tactical switch from Frank De Boer saw Atlanta United lining up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Franco Escobar and Pity Martinez returning to the starting XI after starting the match as a substitute on Friday. The full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Michael Parkhurst (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Eric Remedi (CM), Julian Gressel (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Dion Pereira (LW), Josef Martinez (ST), Pity Martinez (RW).
Atlanta United jumped into their usual attacking posture from the start, putting pressure on the visitors from the start. And it only took 22 minutes for their possession and pressure advantage to show up on the scoresheet. Julian Gressel received a pass and spun into space, laying a pass toward Pity Martinez in the center of the box. The Minnesota defender could only deflect the pass as far as Franco Escobar, who made no mistake, slamming a powerful effort inside the far post for the winner.
Despite the pressure, Atlanta United took just a 1-0 lead into the half, but they came out firing from the interval. Pity Martinez nearly doubled the lead just five minutes into the half, putting the defender on the ground with a silky dribble and slamming a near-post finish that was saved by a fingertip –– then Josef Martinez smashed an effort off the post just 17 minutes later. Then it was Brad Guzan’s turn to do the spectacular, standing on his head for an incredible goalkeeping play to preserve the lead.
In stoppage time, the floodgates finally opened. Julian Gressel showed beautiful skill and a nice pass to find Josef Martinez with a pass deep into Minnesota territory. Josef took on his defender and found the ball on the right side of the box, and his finish was too hot for the Minnesota goalkeeper to handle.
But the reigning MLS MVP wasn’t done yet. It was a slice of fortunate that opened the chance up, with Minnesota’s Ike Opara heading a clearance into the path of Martinez behind the defense. The Venezuelan was as clinical as you’d expect, dribbling into the box and finishing ruthlessly to make it 3-0.
It was a commanding win in front of 42,703 fans, that brought the total number of Atlanta United fans to have come to Mercedes-Benz Stadium up to 2 million. It also brought the Five Stripes up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference at the time of the final whistle, four points off the lead with games in hand. There’s little time to celebrate, as the red, black and gold will be back to defend their home turf on Saturday as they host the Chicago Fire at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tickets are still available, so make sure you’ve reserved yours here.