It was a match where Atlanta United dominated in every statistical category but couldn’t quite turn it into a result as the Five Stripes are held to a just a point by the Portland Timbers.
Tata Martino returned to the four-man back line, with Julian Gressel pushing up to the right wing. But otherwise the lineup remained largely the same from the last MLS match, with Martino putting out this starting XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Mikey Ambrose (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CDM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Ezequiel Barco (LW), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Julian Gressel (RW), Josef Martinez (ST).
Atlanta United seized the initiative from the opening kickoff, dominating possession and creating chances. Franco Escobar nearly took the lead with a towering header early on, then Josef Martinez latched on the end of a Julian Gressel cross but couldn't convert. Unfortunately, Atlanta paid for their missed chances ten minutes before halftime, with Portland’s Larrys Mabiala getting on the end of a set piece to head home the opening goal and give the visitors the advantage heading into the break.
But Atlanta United didn’t let their heads drop, continuing to pile on the pressure as the second half kicked off –– and Julian Gressel made the chances count ten minutes in. After some intricate buildup on the right side of the box, Julian Gressel slammed the ball toward goal only for it to be blocked by the Portland defense. But the pressure continued, with Franco Escobar’s shot getting blocked, then Gressel drove home the dagger with a powerful right-footed blast that skidded off the turf and in.
The equalizer only drove the Five Stripes on, with chance after chance coming for Atlanta United –– and 45,116 fans in red, black and gold turning the attacking end into a cauldron of noise and pressure. Tito Villalba smacked a potential winner off the crossbar with a powerful shot from distance, and Josef Martinez came inches away from a winner that was cleared off the line by the Portland defense. In all, the Five Stripes finished with 69% possession and 20 shots, but couldn’t quite turn their dominance into three points as the game ended 1-1, a hard-fought draw against one of the top clubs in the Western Conference.
The point keeps Atlanta United at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings at the end of the weekend, with another home match coming up next week. They’ll be back at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday in front of 70,000 fans to face their neighbors to the South, Orlando City, in a big Eastern Conference matchup. Make sure you’re part of that sea of red, black and gold that has created the most intimidating atmosphere for opposing teams in MLS by reserving your ticket here.