Another season another trophy raise at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Facing one of the giants of North American soccer in Club América, Atlanta United came out on top in a riveting 3-2 win in front of a rowdy Atlanta crowd.
Frank de Boer named a strong lineup, with a couple changes to keep the legs fresh against tough competition. Alec Kann got his first start of the season, while Dion Pereira, Jeff Larentowicz and Florentin Pogba all came into the starting lineup. The full XI: Alec Kann (GK), Florentin Pogba (DEF), Leandro González Pirez (DEF), Franco Escobar (DEF), Julian Gressel (DEF), Dion Pereira (MID) Jeff Larentowicz (MID), Darlington Nagbe (MID), Emerson Hyndman (MID), Pity Martínez (FWD), Josef Martinez (FWD).
It was an electric match from the very start, with both teams flying up and down the pitch from the opening whistle. Atlanta United took advantage of their chance first in just the fifth minute, and it came from a beautiful passing play. It started in the middle, with Darlington Nagbe surging into space and playing it to Josef Martinez, who laid it off to Pity Martínez, whose one-touch pass was superb to play Emerson Hyndman behind the defense. The young American was ready for his moment and slotted the finish far post to take the lead.
Club América were worthy adversaries, and fought their way back into the match. Renato Ibarra got the equalizer just ten minutes later, and the Mexican giants got another to take the lead just after halftime. But Atlanta United wouldn’t back down and clawed their way back into the match –– and the equalizer came from an unlikely source. After a ball into the Club América box could only be cleared to Jeff Larentowicz at the edge of the box, and he launched a powerful effort from 25 yards out, with his deflected shot rocketing into the top corner.
With Club América on the ropes, Atlanta United pounced again. This time it started with Dion Pereira and Florentin Pogba combining on the edge of the Club América penalty box, and the defender could only bring down Pogba with a foul. The ref pointed to the spot, and Josef Martinez, who had missed a penalty earlier in the match, showed resolve and bravery to step up to the spot again and launch the penalty past the outstretched hand of the goalkeeper.
Club América had no answer to that barrage, with Atlanta United nearly extending their lead as the Mexican visitors were reduced to ten men after a red card. The clock ticked down and Atlanta United held on strong to their lead, finishing it off with a 3-2 win to make history yet again as the first MLS club to win the Campeones Cup.
Atlanta United now rest and recover before heading on the road to face the Portland Timbers in a road rematch of last year’s MLS Cup. They’ll be back in Atlanta to fight for another cup on August 27th in the U.S. Open Cup against Minnesota United. Tickets to that match go on general sale on Friday, so stay tuned to ATLUTD.com for the latest on that.