An incredible and historic night for Atlanta United as the expansion side defeated the Houston Dynamo in a 4-1 dominant performance. Powered by a hat trick from their number 10 Miguel Almirón, Atlanta cruised to their second victory at home this season in front of their fourth straight sellout crowd improving to a 4-4-3 record.
Tata Martino placed nearly an identical lineup on the field as his starting XI against Portland last week with the exception of Greg Garza who made his return to his left back position on Saturday to face Houston. The ATL UTD starting XI vs Houston Dynamo: Alec Kann (GK), Greg Garza (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Tyrone Mears (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Carlos Carmona (CM), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Julian Gressel (RW), Yamil Asad (LW), and Tito Villalba (ST).
It was a chippy start to Saturday night’s match in Atlanta, but in the 30th minute the expansion side did what they do best: open the scoring. After Yamil Asad touched it to a running Miguel Almirón, Atlanta’s number 10 took a touch across his body to put it on a silver platter for his left foot and the Paraguayan smashed it home from the top of the box for his first goal in the ATL.
Just 12 minutes later, Asad would once again connect with Almirón who took a touch past a Houston defender and scored his second of the night with another powerful strike from his strong foot from just inside the area.
With a two-goal advantage at half, Atlanta would not take their foot off the pedal for the second 45.
In the 76th minute, Tito Villalba made a sliding tackle to strip the ball from Houston’s defense which then fell to the feet of Julian Gressel. The 23-year-old German passed it into the far corner of the net to bring Atlanta’s tally to three on the night. Gressel’s finish makes it two goals in two games for the MLS SuperDraft selection.
Minutes later, Atlanta’s Paraguayan playmaker would complete his hat trick after Villalba was taken down in the box and earned a try from the spot for the expansion side. Almirón stepped up and with plenty of confidence, netted the penalty for his third goal of the night.
As the five-striped hat-trick hero walked off the field in the 86th minute, the crowd erupted in not only gratitude and applause for his incredible performance, but on to replace the number 10 and to make his MLS debut was Atlanta’s own Andrew Carleton. The 16-year-old was the club’s first-ever signed Homegrown player and is one of the youngest ever to take the field in MLS.
In the 90th minute, Erick Torres grabbed one back for Houston as he slotted home a penalty kick, but it was too little, too late for the Dynamo as the match finished 4-1 in favor of Atlanta.
“It was a great performance from the team,” said team captain Michael Parkhurst. “Everybody stepped up. We talked about it being a big game for us coming back home playing in front of our fans for the first time in a while. We talked about really having – or wanting – to take advantage of our home games. We were able to do that tonight.”
Almirón’s hat trick is the second for Atlanta this season following Josef Martinez’s three goals in Minnesota, which makes Atlanta United the first-ever expansion side to have two players bag hat tricks in their inaugural MLS season.
To add to the historic night, Jeff Larentowicz made his 316th career MLS start, tying Davy Arnaud and Pablo Mastroeni for 9th all-time in MLS history amongst field players and surpassing Landon Donovan (315) to move into the top 10.
Atlanta United will return to Bobby Dodd Stadium next Sunday as they play host to New York City FC and will look to avenge their recent trip to NYC. The match will kick off on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. ET and will be nationally broadcasted in ESPN. Tickets to the match are almost sold out, make sure to secure your seat here.