Atlanta United has so many memories in such a short time at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but Saturday night was another unforgettable chapter. Facing red-hot expansion side LAFC at their home fortress, the Five Stripes ran riot in an electric second half for a 5-0 win for their fourth-straight victory.
Leandro González Pirez was suspended for the match after last week’s red card against Minnesota United, while Franco Escobar, Greg Garza and Ezequiel Barco were out with injury. That meant Mikey Ambrose came into the side at left back and Miles Robinson made his first MLS appearance in Tata Martino’s back three next Michael Parkhurst and Chris McCann. The full Starting XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Chris McCann (LCB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Miles Robinson (RCB), Mikey Ambrose (LWB), Jeff Larentowicz (CDM), Julian Gressel (RWB), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Tito Villalba (ST), Josef Martinez (ST).
The match started with plenty of controversy in just the first minute, when a hard tackle from Chris McCann was ruled a red card, but after looking at video review, was then overturned as a yellow card. After some tense opening exchanges, it was Atlanta United that took the lead just 16 minutes in. Michael Parkhurst stepped up to the opponent’s 18-yard-box and laid it off to Miguel Almirón, whose powerful low strike made it all the way through the defense and into the path of Julian Gressel, who smashed home into the empty net.
The match went into halftime 1-0, and would stay that way for the first 20 minutes of the second half. But with 67 minutes on the clock, Kevin Kratz played Julian Gressel behind the LAFC defense on the right wing. The reigning MLS Rookie of the Year made it to the byline and floated a beautiful service to the far post for Josef Martinez to head in for the 2-0 lead.
It would stay that way until the 88th minute, when Atlanta United went on a late scoring frenzy. First, Miguel Almirón was taken down in the box by Walker Zimmerman, and would slot home from the spot. Then, LAFC defender Joao Moutinho blocked a Kevin Kratz free kick with an outstretched arm in the box, giving up a penalty and earning a red card in the process. Almirón scored that one too to stretch the lead to four.
If that wasn’t good enough, Romario Williams made the night even more memorable with an exclamation point on the win. The Jamaican forward broke forward on a counter-attack in the 97th minute, cut inside onto his left foot and slotted home a dagger inside the near post to send the crowd into raptures with the fifth goal of the night and his first ever in MLS.
The red, black and gold held on to their second straight clean sheet to earn their fourth straight win in front of another sell-out crowd of 45,207 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The win brought the Five Stripes up to second place in the Supporters Shield race at the end of the match, a stellar start for this early stage of the season. But it gets no easier, with unbeaten NYCFC coming to Atlanta next week for a matchup of two of the best squads in the league so far. Tickets to that match are still available, make sure you’ve reserved your spot here.