Atlanta United overpowered a resilient Colorado Rapids defense to secure their fourth-straight home win in front of a raucous sold-out crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday night.
The news started with Tata Martino’s lineup, which included Josef Martinez as a lone striker in his first league start since his injury three months ago. Carlos Carmona returned to his starting role after his midweek suspension, and it was a memorable night for Anton Walkes, who made his first league start at right back in place of the rested Tyrone Mears. The full lineup: Alec Kann (GK), Anton Walkes (RB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Greg Garza (LB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Carlos Carmona (CM), Yamil Asad (LW), Miguel Almirón, Tito Villalba (RW), Josef Martinez (ST)
The first half was a chippy defensive battle, with Atlanta dominating possession with some neat passing through the middle, but unable to break through the deep-lying defensive block of Colorado. Atlanta had more than 75% possession, constantly poking and prodding the packed back line, and came closest with a vicious dipping volley from Tito Villalba that zipped just over the bar.
The second half was more dominance in possession from Atlanta, with an added dose of incisiveness in the final third. Josef Martinez was much more involved, testing Tim Howard in the Colorado goal in the 46th, 51st and 58th minute, and again with a stunning bicycle kick after the hour mark that was just kept out of the Colorado goal.
But the addition of Brandon Vazquez on the wing brought an instant spark to the Atlanta offense, and it took him only three minutes to make a decisive contribution. The 18-year-old got on the end of a nice through ball just on the byline, cut back inside and fed Martinez just inside the penalty spot. The Venezuelan star was cool in the box, taking two touches to beat his defender and slotting it past Howard in the goal to take the 1-0 lead.
Atlanta had a few chances to double their advantage and ease the pressure in the final minute, but the lead remained at just one as the referee called for five extra minutes of stoppage time. Atlanta would need one last moment of heroics before the final whistle and Alec Kann was up to the task, clawing out a free close-range header and falling on it with the final touch of the game.
The win makes it four straight at home for Atlanta United, in front of a seventh consecutive sold-out crowd of 44,938 fans at Bobby Dodd stadium. The red, black and gold will now travel to South Florida to face Miami FC in the US Open Cup before traveling to Columbus to face the Crew next weekend.
The Five Stripes will be back at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Tuesday, July 4th to face the San Jose Earthquakes for a night of Independence Day soccer under the stars. Tickets for the match are still available here.