An impressive road performance for Atlanta United yet again who walks out of Columbus, Ohio with all three points and a clean sheet after topping the third-placed Crew 2-0.
Tata Martino reverted to the 4-2-3-1 formation that was so successful for the team last year, with Julian Gressel in midfield and Miguel Almirón passing a fitness test to retain his starting spot in the creative attacking midfield role. The full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Mikey Ambrose (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CDM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Ezequiel Barco (LW), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Julian Gressel (RW), Josef Martinez (ST).
The game started tight in the midfield, with two of the best possession sides in the league trading body blows but unable to find the penetrating pass to create chances. That all changed in the 30th minute, and it was that man again, Josef Martinez, who proved to be the difference-maker. Ezequiel Barco stepped up and curled a corner kick over the mass of bodies and to Martinez, who’d drifted a yard off his man in the box. The Venezuelan put his impressive leaping ability on display with a towering header to snatch his league-best 14 goals this season.
Josef would take a blow to the face that drew blood and forced him to take the rest of the night off after the halftime break, with Romario Williams coming on in his place. Columbus fought back to defend their home turf, forcing a nice save out of Brad Guzan straight out of half. But the U.S. international’s incredible reaction save kept out the second top scorer in MLS so far this year, Gyasi Zardes.
Atlanta United would make the Crew pay for their missed chance ruthlessly as the second half ticked down. With Columbus pushing forward for a goal, Miguel Almirón nabbed the ball off a Crew player and burst into transition straight at the yellow and black defense. While all eyes were on the Paraguayan, his eyes were on Tito Villalba bursting down the right wing, and the second-half substitute confidently put away the chance after a beautiful lead pass from Almirón on the left.
The win takes Atlanta United to 4 points earned this week, an incredible return from a road trip to the second and third-highest teams in the Eastern Conference. That makes it now seven matches unbeaten on the road for the Five Stripes, tied for the 12th-longest stretch in league history. The team now gets a well-deserved week off before returning to Mercedes-Benz Stadium next Wednesday to face the Chicago Fire in the fifth round of the U.S. Open Cup. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you’ve secured yours here.