After Atlanta fought back from an early goal and a sending-off, a stoppage-time goal from Minnesota proved just enough to hand Atlanta United their first loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, breaking their 12-match home unbeaten streak.
With injury, squad rotation and international call-ups adding up for the red, black and gold, Tata Martino shuffled his deck after a quick turnaround from their road match against the Revolution over the weekend. Kenwyne Jones and Tye Mears received their first start in months and Kyle Reynish made his second start of the season in goal. Kevin Kratz joined Julian Gressel in the center of the park while the versatile Chris McCann shifted back to defense in place of the injured Greg Garza. The full XI: Kyle Reynish (GK), Chris McCann (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Tyrone Mears (RB), Carlos Carmona (CM), Kevin Kratz (CM), Yamil Asad (LW), Julian Gressel (CAM), Tito Villalba (RW), Kenwyne Jones (ST).
The Five Stripes dominated the bulk of the first half, with nearly 2/3 of the possession and six shots, but couldn’t quite find the finishing touch as the first half came to a close. The second half started on a tough note, with Abu Danladi hitting a powerful left-footed finish into the top corner to take the lead just three minutes into the half. Things went from bad to worse just before the hour mark. Kyle Reynish came out of his box to stop the onrushing Danladi, and his slide tackle missed the ball and got man. After video review, the referee opted to give the goalkeeper a red card for a denial of a goalscoring opportunity.
But like they’ve done all season, Atlanta United showed fight in the face of adversity. Seven minutes after going down a man, Julian Gressel darted to the opposing byline and sent a cross into the danger area. The Minnesota clearance fell only to the top of the box and fell to the feet of Tito Villalba, who steadied himself and launched a low drive past the goalkeeper for the equalizer.
Just five minutes later, Atlanta United took the lead on a piece of absolute class in the attacking third. In the 72nd minute, Yamil Asad pulled in defenders and hit a beautiful lofted through ball into the path of rookie Julian Gressel. Gressel showed calmness and composure to cut back onto his left foot and slam the ball past the goalkeeper.
But as the game wore on, the man disadvantage started to wear on the makeshift Atlanta United defense, who couldn’t quite hold on in the final moments. Minnesota’s Christian Ramirez’s deflected finish on the corner dribbled just over the line in the 90th minute. Then, with the referee showing seven minutes of stoppage time, Minnesota’s Kevin Molino leapt highest for the header for the late 3-2 win.
While the 43,185 fans in attendance have forgotten what it feels like to lose in their home ground, the Five Stripes are still sitting nicely in the playoff picture despite the loss. Atlanta United sits in third place in the Eastern Conference with a playoff berth in hand. They will return with a vengeance after the international break with a road match against the New York Red Bulls on October 15th. They’ll then face the recently crowned Supporters’ Shield winners Toronto FC back at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the final game of the regular season on October 22nd. Make sure you’ve got a seat as the club looks to break the regular season attendance record – again – by getting your tickets here.