It was a game with plenty of chances –– and plenty of controversy –– but it ends in a point for Atlanta United in front of a record-breaking crowd against Seattle Sunday.
Tata Martino lined up in the same formation that beat Philadelphia on the road last weekend, with Chris McCann coming in at left back as the only change. The Full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Chris McCann (LB), Leandro González Pírez (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).
It was a stop and start beginning to the match, with both teams struggling to find a rhythm between a tightly-officiated match. Atlanta United nearly took the lead on the half hour mark off of a corner kick. The ball swung into the box, and with McCann fighting through a hold forced a Seattle defender to deflect the ball toward his own net. But Stefan Frei had a nice reaction save to keep the game level with the Five Stripes knocking on the door.
Then came the controversy. Fifteen minutes later, with the clock ticking toward halftime, a Seattle player hit a powerful shot toward Franco Escobar in the box. Escobar turned his back to make the block, but the ref went to VAR anyway and awarded a penalty kick for an alleged handball. Brad Guzan got a finger to Nico Lodeiro’s penalty kick but couldn’t keep it out, and Seattle’s first shot on target gave them the lead.
Atlanta United put their frustration aside and came out hot in the second half, and got the goal they deserved just minutes later. Ezequiel Barco created a yard of space outside the box and laid it off to Julian Gressel, who sent a signature pinpoint cross onto the head of Josef Martinez. The Venezuelan continued his unstoppable scoring streak with a looping header that went over Stefan Frei and into the net for his league-leading 19th goal of the season.
Seattle dropped down to ten men just minutes later, with Jordan McCrary getting his second yellow card of the match for a high and late tackle on Leandro González Pírez. But the Sounders packed in their defense from there, putting ten behind the ball to hold off wave after wave of Atlanta United attacks. Chris McCann had a shot cleared off the line and Stefan Frei tallied up six saves. But Atlanta United couldn’t break through with the winner, and the match ended in a frustrating 1-1 scoreline.
While the result on the pitch was a disappointment for the team, the fans off it captured yet another headline. 72,243 packed in to cheer on the Five Stripes, setting yet another MLS record for attendance. Atlanta United fans now hold the top five regular season attendances ever in MLS history.
The team will have to shrug off the disappointment quickly, with another challenge coming up in just a few days time. Next weekend, the Five Stripes take on Wayne Rooney and D.C. United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the latest contest on their home pitch. Tickets are still available, so make sure you’ve reserved yours here.