Another monumental day for Atlanta United as the club traveled to Minnesota and defeated fellow expansion side MNUFC in six-goal fashion. The commanding 6-1 victory marks the club’s first win in MLS history and a single-match scoring record for any expansion side. Highlighted by a hat-trick from Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez, Atlanta took an early lead and never took their foot off the gas, even through the cold, blizzard-like and unfamiliar Northern conditions.
The starters for ATL UTD differed slightly from last week’s match with the only change being Jeff Larentowicz who stepped in the center of the midfield for the suspended Carlos Carmona, who was shown a red card vs. New York Red Bulls. The rest of the starting XI included Alec Kann (GK), Greg Garza (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Tyrone Mears (RB), Julian Gressel (CM), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Yami Asad (LW), Tito Villalba (RW) and Josef Martinez (ST).
Recollections of the early-scoring routine in preseason came rushing back at the beginning of the match as Almirón threaded a pass to Martinez who notched a goal just three minutes into the competition. Martinez’s first goal in MLS history was the spark that lit the fire. Ten minutes later 23-year-old Gressel split a pair of Minnesota defenders to find a darting Almirón who smashed it near post, up and past the opposing goalkeeper.
In the 27th minute, Martinez scored his second to give Atlanta the three-goal advantage, this time receiving a feed from Asad and then, cool and composed, buried it in the back of the net.
Minnesota grabbed their single goal of the match before halftime after Jeff Larentowicz took down Collen Warner in the box. The referee awarded MNUFC a penalty giving Kevin Molino the opportunity to slot it him from the spot.
Halftime arrived with a 3-1 score line in favor of Atlanta, but after a short breather in the warmth of the locker room, that lead quickly grew. Seven minutes after the start of the second half, Atlanta United struck for a fourth time and in incredible style. A bouncing ball on the top of the box was met with an Almirón left-foot that struck a mean volley into the right side of the goal.
The count then hit five when Martinez topped off his hat-trick, latching on to a Villalba through ball and dribbling past a charging Alvbage (MNUFC Goalkeeper) to ultimately roll it into the net.
The sixth and final goal came in the fourth minute of extra time. Garza picked out substitute Jacob Peterson with a precise cross who then rose up around the six-yard box and headed home the last tally of the night.
The final whistle at TCF Bank Stadium proved to be a big moment as Atlanta United officially sealed its first ever win in MLS history. Though not ideal weather conditions and certainly not regular Southern weather conditions, ATL UTD entered the match hungrier than ever, battling it out through the snow to earn three massive points against their 2017 fellow expansion team.
“It’s always nice to score, and even more so when it’s three,” said Martinez after the match. “But the most important thing is that the team got the win tonight and it feels really good to get the first win in team history.”
Atlanta United will continue its inaugural season at home in Atlanta next Saturday, March 18 against Chicago Fire. Kickoff is set for 4:00 p.m. ET. The club’s last home match warranted a 55,297-sellout crowd and tickets are going just as fast for this one. You can secure your seat here.