Atlanta United earned a much-needed win at home against Colorado Rapids on Wednesday in its first midweek match of the MLS season. The 4-0 victory snapped a four-game winless streak for the 5-Stripes and continued their run of scoring at least one goal in every match this season.
Four different players, including all three designated players, scored for Atlanta. Thiago Almada, Luiz Araújo, and Giorgos Giakoumakis all had goals and Tyler Wolff added another for his first career MLS goal. With their goals, Almada and Giakoumakis remain the leading scorers for the team with six goals each.
"It feels good to bounce back after some unfortunate results the past few weeks," Wolff said, "so to get the three points was huge for us. When the chances came, we finished them off. It was a domino effect and it just kept going tonight."
The first goal came in the 29th minute after a foul on Derrick Etienne Jr. a few yards outside the box resulted in a direct free kick for Atlanta. Almada, who missed a PK in the 10th minute, took the kick and connected. His shot curled into the left side of the goal past stunned Colorado goalkeeper William Yarbrough. It was Almada's third goal from a direct free kick this season.
Araújo later added to the scoreline with a breakaway goal in the 80th minute. After receiving the ball at midfield from a Brooks Lennon pass, Araújo dribbled up the field past a Colorado defender and split two more defenders by slotting the ball past Yarbrough into the bottom right corner.
Atlanta added two more goals late in the second half to put the exclamation point on the win. Another shot from Almada bounced around in front of the goal before Wolff poked it into the net in the 87th minute. Three minutes later, Giakoumakis, who came on as a sub earlier in the half, chipped the keeper for the final goal of the night.
Almada almost earned his first goal earlier in the match after a shot from Araújo deflected off the hand of a Colorado defender inside the box and earned Atlanta a penalty kick. Almada went to the spot, where he scored his last goal against Nashville, but his shot sailed over the net.
Atlanta had multiple good looks throughout the match that forced Yarbrough to make six saves on the night. In the 25th minute, Lennon sent in a corner kick that found the head of Miles Robinson, but the ball fell right into the hands of Yarbrough.
Wednesday's win earned Atlanta its first shutout since its 1-0 win over New York Red Bulls on April 1. Goalkeeper Quentin Westberg recorded two impressive saves in the second half to maintain the clean sheet.
“It’s not my clean sheet, it’s just a consequence,” Westberg said. “Obviously, I’m rarely going to be on the scoreboard, so on the other end, getting a clean sheet is just the conclusion of a great team effort.”
Atlanta's defensive performance was strong, despite the absence of defenders Caleb Wiley and Andrew Gutman. Filling in for them in the starting lineup was Matheus Rossetto, who made his 50th career start for Atlanta, and Ronald Hernández, who earned his first MLS regular season start of the year for the club.
Atlanta dominated the majority of the match by maintaining over 67% possession and taking 27 total shots, 14 in the first half and 13 in the second.
"We have to show this every game and that will be the demand from now on," head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. "We can win or lose, that's not important. What's important is we always show the same attitude, urgency and intensity on every action, and I felt that today we did a very good job on that."
Up next - Atlanta travels to Chicago for second matchup of the season
Atlanta will head to Soldier Field on Saturday, May 20 to face Eastern Conference opponent Chicago Fire FC. Earlier this season, a 99th minute goal secured a thrilling 2-1 win for Atlanta at home over Chicago.