There’s nothing like a record-breaking day at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the Atlanta United faithful were treated to yet another historic day Saturday as the Five Stripes came back for a commanding 3-1 win over D.C. United Saturday.
The headlines before the match were all about the homegrown hero, Andrew Carleton, making his first MLS start on the left wing in the only change in Tata Martino’s lineup from last weekend. The full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Chris McCann (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Julian Gressel (CM), Andrew Carleton (LW), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Tito Villalba (RW), Josef Martinez (ST).
The jubilant mood at full time fell far away in a suckerpunch in the opening ten minutes. After a good stretch of pressure from Atlanta United to open the match, it was D.C. United that got on the board first just eight minutes in. It was D.C.’ Wayne Rooney that started the counter, springing Paul Arriola behind the defense, with the American laying it off to Zoltan Stieber to curl past Brad Guzan for the opening goal of the match.
But Atlanta United showed their mental strength to not let the early blow get them down, keeping up the pressure on the D.C. United goal –– and it paid off in the 30th minute with the crucial equalizer. Martinez played a nifty backheel from an Andrew Carleton pass into the path of Miguel Almirón, who swung the ball out wide to Tito Villalba. The Argentine was decisive, taking a touch and sending in a signature teasing cross for Josef Martinez to head home the equalizer.
That score carried through halftime, but Atlanta United kept up the pressure at the start of the second period to get the lead they deserved. Nine minutes into the half, Atlanta United played a short corner to the foot of Andrew Carleton, and the Powder Springs native made his biggest mark of the match. The teenager showed nifty footwork to beat his man and send in a cross, which deflected off a D.C. United defender, but Josef Martinez was there at the back post to slam home a powerful header.
But the Venezuelan striker was still one goal away from history, and it came with just under 20 minutes left to play. Miguel Almirón burst into space on the counter attack and played the ball to a streaking Martinez making a run behind the D.C. defense. Martinez only had the goalkeeper to beat and he made no mistake, leaving the goalkeeper in his dust to tap home his sixth career MLS hat trick, breaking the all-time record just over halfway through his second season.
Eric Remedi came on just minutes later to make his MLS debut, closing out the game with ease with fellow second-half substitutes Kevin Kratz and Brandon Vazquez to cap off the 3-1 win in front of another sell-out crowd of 45,087 of the Atlanta faithful.
The win propelled the Five Stripes back to the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings at the time of the final whistle. They’ll try to keep this momentum going on the road next week as they travel to Montreal to take on the Impact. They’ll return to Atlanta the following weekend to host Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so make sure you’re there to root on the Five Stripes by reserving your ticket here.