If you want to know what head coach Tata Martino thinks about Atlanta United’s form right now, he put it bluntly after the match.
“Last week was our best performance yet at home,” he told reporters through a translator. “And this was our best game ever on the road.”
That’s saying a lot for a team with a 6-1 road victory in their past, but the underlying numbers back it up as well, with the red, black and gold strong on both sides of the ball. Atlanta United has 16 shots while limiting the Galaxy to just six –– both numbers the best the team has ever done on the road.
"We were very attentive, very precise,” Martino said. “We circulated the ball very well and created a lot of scoring chances and aside from a few balls in the air they didn't have too many chances on goal and I think all the major components from a soccer game the team handled well tonight."
"I thought defensively it was a near-perfect performance from the entire team,” added captain Michael Parkhurst. “Everybody dug in and did their job. We blocked crosses, we defended in the box. Guys up top put pressure on the ball when we needed it. It was just a very, very good performance.”
That defensive solidity started with shutting down the Galaxy’s star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was held without a shot during the match.
“They like to target him on a lot of long balls and we just said let's keep the line as high as possible,” Parkhurst said. “We wanted our wing backs to make sure that we get pressure on their crosses so that they weren't picking them out easily. I thought that they did a fantastic job of that. I thought that we executed that very well, I am not sure he had any big chances.”
But it was equally impressive on the front foot, and nowhere was that more apparent than in the combination play between Miguel Almirón, Josef Martinez and Ezequiel Barco, who made his first start for the team.
“We wanted to take control of the game, have possession and just show what we did against New York last week we could come out and do it again," Martinez said. “You guys already know how I combine with Miguel but I thought Ezequiel looked good. It's his first start for the team so he just needs to get a little bit more rhythm but I think for being his first start we are combining well and we just need to keep improving as a team.”
“They just seem to know where each other is going to be,” Parkhurst added. “They play 1-2’s, it’s very quick, especially in the attacking third they’re tough to defend when they’re interchanging positions. Offensively we created enough chances to score a few more goals. If we couldn't bag that second one we had to stay strong defensively. We were able to do that and obviously we seal it late so a fantastic victory and a near-perfect game for everybody."
The win brought Atlanta United within one point of the lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, with a game in hand on the teams in front of them. With five wins and a draw in their past six matches, the red, black and gold will look to stretch their unbeaten run to seven next weekend as they host the Montreal Impact back in the friendly confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Limited tickets to the match are still available, so make sure you’ve reserved yours here.