To the 68,586 in attendance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, and anyone else who tuned into the national broadcast, it should come as no surprise that the Man of the Match for Atlanta United’s 2-1 win over Seattle Sounders was awarded to defender Andrew Gutman.
It should also come as no surprise that the league, and the sporting world at large, took notice. On Monday, the league announced Gutman was named to the MLS Team of the Week, his first for Atlanta United.
The fullback came on in the 82nd minute as a substitute and delivered the game-winning goal against the Seattle Sounders. In second-half stoppage time, Gutman received the ball from midfielder Marcelino Moreno well outside the box. He took one touch then struck the ball hard with his left foot. The shot froze Seattle’s goalkeeper and sailed into the right side of the net.
“It just popped up perfectly, and I was able to hit it sweet, and it went in,” Gutman said.
The result was one of the best wins of Atlanta United’s season, defeating a strong Seattle side that recently won the Concacaf Champions League. It also gave Atlanta its first all-time victory over one of the most successful franchises in the league.
The meaning of the moment, and the pure excellence of Gutman’s strike, sent Mercedes-Benz Stadium into a frenzy – as well as Atlanta’s bench. Ronaldo Cisneros, Atlanta United’s other goal scorer on the night who was subbed off in the 65th minute, was the first player to greet Gutman during his goal celebration that eventually turned into a team dogpile.
“There was a lot of emotion in that moment,” Cisneros said. “You can see on the bench, I jumped up as if I hadn’t scored because we’re all so happy for Andrew. And I think that goal just shows the power of family as a team. All the positive emotion in that moment.”
If there was anyone more emotional that Gutman got that goal for Atlanta United, it might’ve been the club’s head coach. Gonzalo Pineda told his team before the match that they needed three points on Saturday, no matter what.
Gutman’s goal not only delivered those vital points, it also gave Pineda a signature win over his mentor, Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer, and former club. And the way Pineda and Gutman embraced showed just how much it all meant.
“Andrew Gutman’s goal, I mean… it was perfect,” Pineda said after the match. “It was just a perfect ending for my message before the game.”
Gutman, who recently returned from a quad injury, subbed on in the 82nd minute against Seattle. It was just his second appearance since returning from injury. The weekend prior during Atlanta United’s scoreless draw with Chicago Fire, he entered the match as a second-half sub and played 15 minutes.
The golazo on Saturday was Gutman’s first career goal for Atlanta United. He previously scored two goals in MLS play last year while on loan to the New York Red Bulls. That, along with his status of making his way back into full-90 form, made the match hero even more stunning.
“I was joking with him that he closed his eyes and hit it,” defender Alan Franco said. “But I’ve also seen him strike the ball really hard, so I know that he’s capable of it. At the moment, I didn’t know it was going in, that he was going to score a golazo like that. But he’s a great player, and I think it’s important. It’s going to give us confidence moving forward.”
It’s Gutman’s first time on MLS Team of the Week as a member of the 5-Stripes. He may be the hero, but after the match Gutman was clear to state it’s unlikely he’ll be scoring goals, especially ones that win the game, week in and week out.
“I’m not someone like Luiz or Thiago or Josef, I don’t have that kind of skill set,” Gutman said. “So, for me to score something like that, I didn’t even believe it really. So don’t expect me to do that ever again.”