After their season-opening loss in Houston, Atlanta have been nearly lights out away from home so far this year. The Five Stripes have won all four road games since and only allowed two goals in that stretch, while just dropping one match in their last ten total and surging to the top of the Supporters’ Shied standings. Most recently, they put their impressive away form on full display as they to traveled to their Southern neighbors Orlando City, and kept their unbeaten record over the Lions alive.
“It’s very important, especially in a league where winning on the road is so difficult,” said head coach Tata Martino. “I think it’s really important and I think we’re deserving of it, and even more so coming off of a loss at home on Wednesday.”
Atlanta had a rollercoaster of a week with three games in an eight-day stretch, earning a win in Chicago and then falling just short to the Western Conference leaders at home on Wednesday with a ten-man side. With starting goalkeeper Brad Guzan suspended following the midweek match, hometown keeper Alec Kann stepped in on Sunday night to help get his side back to winning ways. Kann and company delivered, capping off the busy week with yet another road victory.
"Really tough stretch, three good teams, two of which away from home,” said Kann. “We should be really proud of that, get back to Atlanta and rest and look forward to next Sunday at home."
Not only is Orlando City an inter-conference matchup, but given the proximity of the two teams, there’s always a little something extra when the Five Stripes face the Lions.
"Obviously Orlando is a geographical rival, so this is a game everyone's up for, obviously every game, but this one especially,” added Kann. “We knew there'd be space to play and we were able to exploit it early on.”
“This atmosphere is unbelievable no matter who they’re playing. Credit to them for filling up the stands and making it a tough place to come win a game, but fortunately we did…Our form on the road, minus Houston, has been great. We've come in with great game plans, guys have been mentally sharp and we've done what we need to do."
Atlanta has clearly taken the opening loss to heart and used it as motivation to prove themselves as the top team in MLS. A new characteristic of the team that’s set them apart from year one: resilience. It’s been a key component in their franchise-record win streak on the road and even after a heart-wrenching loss on Wednesday, they executed Sunday to perfection in a hostile environment.
"I think the team, we're getting better as whole,” said 19-year-old Ezequiel Barco, who made his debut just a few weeks ago after missing the beginning of the season with injury. “Wednesday's game was tough, especially playing down a man, but the most important thing for us is to keep trying to improve and get better."
"I think in the second half you could see Orlando had more of the ball and they had more attacks on our goal because I think we were a little bit tired,” added Barco. “Luckily, we knew how to see out the game, we just remained calm and were able to get the result."
Even in the face of fatigue, in the final minutes of a triple-match week: resilience.
The Five Stripes will look to build on their massive inter-conference victory and maintain their lead at the top of the Supporters’ Shield table as they return home next Sunday to face the New York Red Bulls. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you’ve secured yours here.