A blissful night for Atlanta United as they returned to the win column after a solid second half effort saw them find the net twice to sink the Union 2-0 in Philadelphia.
Tata Martino elected to go with the same lineup as his Fourth of July matchup in Dallas midweek, with Chris McCann and Brandon Vazquez making a return to his 18 for the Saturday night contest in Philly. The full ATL UTD Starting XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Mikey Ambrose (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Julian Gressel (CM), Ezequiel Barco (LW), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Tito Villalba (RW), Josef Martinez (ST).
The first half was gritty for a full 45’ and at times, sloppy and disorganized from both sides. Neither side looked too threatening toward goal, but the best chance of the half came just before the halftime whistle. In the 39th minute, Josef Martinez played a darting Ezequiel Barco into space behind the retreating Philadelphia back line. The 19-year-old then cut back on his right foot to bypass a few defenders for a better at net, but his shot would only go as far as the Union defender who recovered in time to block his attempt.
Not long after that, Philadelphia made a few attempts of their own to try and break the stalemate with a couple efforts from distance from Borek Dockal. But one was blocked from entering the lower corner by Brad Guzan and the other sailed just wide of the post. And just as the play was even, the teams entered the half with a deadlocked score-line.
But out of the gates in the second half, both teams looked they had a second wind and it was Philadelphia who looked dangerous first. Brazilian midfielder Ilsinho cleverly passed a few Atlanta defenders on the edge of the area, laid it off to Keegan Rosenberry who fired a shot with his left foot, but Brad Guzan came up big, able to parry the effort and pounce on it immediately. After that sequence, it was the visitors who were in control.
In the 57th minute, a gorgeous pass from Leandro González Pirez found the nifty Miguel Almirón who drew a foul in the Philadelphia penalty area and once the referee pointed to the spot, there was no question who would step up for the 5-Stripes. Golden Boot leader Josef Martinez – with his cool and collective walk up – slotted the penalty into the side netting for his 18th goal of the season and put Atlanta United up 1-0 on the night.
What came next was something quite special. A signature Atlanta United electric move with unselfish play that Dan Gargan claims “will make your jaw drop.” Almirón found the foot of Martinez at the top of the area, who then returned it to Almirón with an incisive through pass in the area. And just when everyone thought Miggy would finish the play himself, the Paraguayan slipped a pass across the box, splitting a few defenders, right to the foot of Tito Villalba who smashed home the dagger on the night in the 76th minute.
With the match ending 2-0, Atlanta United extends their lead at the top of the East and the Supporters’ Shield standings – a positive way to end a week long road trip. Now the 5-Stripes return to Atlanta for back-to-back home matches. The first being an expanded capacity match against the Seattle Sounders next Sunday, July 15th. To be one of the 70K in the crowd and to watch the World Cup Final on the halo board, make sure you reserve your seat here.