A raucous crowd, a high-flying attack and three points at home –– you can’t ask for much more than that, and that’s just what the Five Stripes delivered Wednesday night with a commanding 2-0 win over Toronto FC Wednesday night.
Frank de Boer made some small changes to his lineup with a three-match week on the horizon. Brek Shea came into the lineup in place of Michael Parkhurst while Tito Villalba came into the lineup for Ezequiel Barco. The full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Brek Shea (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Eric Remedi (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Pity Martinez (CAM), Tito Villalba (LW), Josef Martinez (ST), Julian Gressel (RW).
To say Atlanta United’s attack was relentless was an understatement. Josef Martinez nearly took the lead just 15 minutes into the match, but his powerful effort whistled past Alex Bono’s post, and with each wave the crowd rose another decibel. Just two minutes later, the Five Stripes got the goal they deserved. It started with a free kick from the excellent Pity Martinez, whose powerful effort stung the palms of the goalkeeper. Josef Martinez pounced on the rebound on the right wing and sent in a fizzing low cross that Tito Villalba smashed into the net from close range.
From there the pressure only grew on the Toronto goal. Josef Martinez nearly doubled the lead just two minutes later after a lung-bursting run up the middle from Darlington Nagbe, with another lower effort smacking off the outside of the post. And Tito Villalba nearly scored the goal of the night, nutmegging a defender and skipping past another, only for his effort to bounce off the post and out.
The second half was much like the first, with more relentless pressure from the Five Stripes. Tito Villalba had one shot in the back of the net that was ruled barely offside in the build-up. But Julian Gressel put the game beyond doubt at the 68 minute mark. After a nice passage of passing play, Julian found some space on the right wing, cut inside on his left and skipped a powerful effort off the pitch that was deflected off the defender and in the net.
Atlanta United nearly extended their lead several more times, with Pity Martinez’s scorching effort from deep beating the keeper but not the post. And Dion Pereira put another ball in the back of the net, but it was again ruled out for a close offside call. But with Pereira, Jeff Larentowicz and Michael Parkhurst all bringing fresh legs into the match, the two goals were all that Atlanta United would need as 42,537 fans roared them on to their third straight victory.
The win pulls Atlanta United up to seventh place in the Eastern Conference with several games in hand. They’ll try to continue their climb up the standings this weekend as they host Orlando City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tickets are still available for that match, so make sur eyou’ve reserved yours here.