Another game, another magical moment of late-game heroics from Atlanta United. For the second time in eight days, the red, black and gold scored a stoppage time equalizer Sunday to grind out a valuable point, this time on the road against Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City.
With Josef Martinez and Greg Garza forced out of the lineup with injury, Head Coach Tata Martino was forced into two changes from his usual lineup, with left back Mikey Ambrose getting called into the XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Mikey Ambrose (LB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Anton Walkes (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Carlos Carmona (CM), Yamil Asad (LW), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Julian Gressel (RW), Tito Villalba (ST).
The game was a tense, tight affair from the start, which is often the case for teams on the road against the best defense in the league so far this year. Both teams battled for every inch in the midfield, but couldn’t break through some well-organized defending from both sides. Sporting got the only shot on target in the half, which Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan cleaned up easily.
The second half started much like the first, with two organized defenses cancelling each other out. But the referee’s whistle swung momentum toward Sporting Kansas City, with Leandro González Pirez adjudged to have fouled Latif Blessing in the penalty box. Benny Feilhaber slotted home the penalty to take the 1-0 lead for the home side in the 60th minute. But Atlanta United has proven time and time again this year that they will keep fighting until the very last second, and the team starting to make a name for itself for late-game drama did so again this week.
It started with a substitute, with Jacob Peterson coming in for Julian Gressel to make his first appearance for the club since March after a long injury layoff. And in poetic fashion, it was Peterson – the former Sporting Kansas City forward facing his old club for the first time – who broke the home fans’ hearts. A cross came into the box onto the head of Brandon Vazquez, who fought well to keep the ball in the KC box. Sporting’s clearance ricocheted into Peterson, who took advantage of the mistake, kept his cool, and slotted past Tim Melia for the game-changing equalizer.
It’s the second time in two weeks that Atlanta United has scored in stoppage time to rescue a crucial point, this time an even more impressive result on the road against the leaders of the Western Conference. The draw means Atlanta United are now unbeaten in seven matches, and end the weekend tied on points with the New York Red Bulls for fourth place in the Eastern Conference Standings.
The team now gets a chance to get healthy over a short break, with Tata Martino saying earlier this week he expects nearly a full roster for their two-game road trip against DC United and the Philadelphia Union later this month. The Five Stripes then return to Atlanta to face FC Dallas on September 10th in the first ever game at their permanent home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tickets are already sold out for that one, so make sure to click here to reserve your spot for the following home game against the New England Revolution on September 13th.