It’s been four weeks since Atlanta United last played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and they showed how much they missed their home with a strong 2-1 win to take all three points against the Montreal Impact Saturday.
With Josef Martinez still out on international duty and a few other injuries hitting the front line, Head Coach Frank de Boer shuffled his pack with Florentin Pogba and Justin Meram coming into the starting lineup. The Full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Florentin Pogba (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Eric Remedi (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Justin Meram (LW), Julian Gressel (CAM), Pity Martinez (RW), Brandon Vazquez (ST).
It was a cagey start, with Montreal lining up with a compact five-defender formation and Atlanta United dominating possession but struggling to break through a compact defensive shape. It would take a moment of magic to break through, and that’s just what Justin Meram delivered. He got the ball near the sideline with plenty of work left to do, but he cut inside beat his man, and launched an absolute rocket curling into the top far corner.
After taking that lead into half, it would be a touch of bad fortune to put the Montreal Impact back on level terms. It came off a corner, with the cleared header falling to the feet of an Impact defender. They took a shot from the top of the box that bounced off his teammate and dribbled over the line just five minutes into the second half.
The equalizer meant the Impact could sit back again and keep a very compact defensive line, and Atlanta United kept up the suffocating pressure on the visitors but couldn’t quite craft clear-cut chances against the packed-in back line. But Justin Meram had another moment of magic in him, and it came just minutes before the final whistle. With 83:00 on the clock, Julian Gressel swung in a corner that Leandro González Pirez beat his defender to meet in the air. His header fell to substitute Brek Shea, who poked it across the face of goal, onlu for Justin Meram to poke home and send the stadium into raptures.
Atlanta was able to hold off Montreal from there, with the Impact having no answer in the final minutes. The win keeps Atlanta United in fourth place in the Eastern Conference at the time of the final whistle, four points off the top of the East with two matches in hand. There’s no time to rest, with another midweek match coming up this week on the road against the Chicago Fire. The Five Stripes will then return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face Eastern Conference opponents New York Red Bulls on Saturday. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you’ve reserved yours here.