It was the perfect start to a week-long road trip for Atlanta United as they traveled 1,400 miles out West and a mile high to conquer the Rapids 3-0 powered by a first half brace from Miguel Almirón. With the result at the final whistle, Atlanta retook the top spot in the Eastern Conference as well as the Supporters’ Shield standings. The win also brings ATL UTD to nine road wins on the season – tying the all-time MLS record.
With a healthy Darlington Nagbe at his disposal, Tata Martino elected to deploy his 3-5-2 lineup, placing Nagbe in the heart of the XI for the first time since his injury on June 24th. The full starting XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Chris McCann (LWB), Leandro González Pirez (LCB), Micheal Parkhurst (CB), Jeff Larentowicz (RCB), Julian Gressel (RWB), Eric Remedi (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Tito Villalba (ST), and Josef Martinez (ST).
The Five Stripes wasted no time getting on the scoresheet, jumping on the front foot just 10 minutes into the match. Leandro González Pirez put his long-range distribution on display with a pinpoint pass to find Julian Gressel on the right wing. And the German, doing what he does best, sent a low searching ball across the six-yard box for Miguel Almirón to roof into the net – notching his 10th goal of the season. With that strike, the Paraguayan playmaker became just the 3rd MLS player to reach double-digit tallies in both goals and assists.
But that was just the start, nine minutes later Atlanta would double their lead. This time it was Tito Villalba and Eric Remedi who put forth a strong defensive effort to win the ball back in the opponent’s half. Remedi then found a roaming Josef Martinez who immediately raced towards goal with Miguel Almirón at his side. The connection that has become known as “fusion” was too much to handle as Martinez laid it off for Almirón who slotted home his second of the match from close range.
But the visitors weren’t done with their electric entrance. Before the halftime whistle, Atlanta would put away the third and final dagger. Almirón would be involved again, but this time as creator-in-chief. A through ball from inside his own half would play Gressel into space on the flank once again. And just as he proved earlier in the match – if you give the reigning Rookie of the Year time and space to pick out a pass, he will punish you. His signature danger ball rolled right into the path of Tito Villalba who made no mistake – scoring his 5th goal of the season and putting the match out of reach for the Rapids.
With a 3-0 lead and two more games to play this week, Atlanta United eased their foot off the pedal in the second half, spreading the field, maintaining possession, utilizing their subs and saving their legs for crucial upcoming matches. Ezequiel Barco, Kevin Kratz and Andrew Carleton all entered the half to help secure the three points. The match would end 3-0 in favor of the Five Stripes, kicking their road trip off in style.
Following their victory in Colorado, Atlanta United head to San Jose for a midweek matchup on Wednesday night. Then it’s back to the East Coast as they host Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Be there with 70K of the 5-Stripe family to welcome the boys back to the ATL by securing your ticket here.