Atlanta United was looking for a solid win to send them off to the summer break after a hectic May schedule. That’s just what they got with a commanding 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire in front of a packed house at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday.
Without a league fixture in the next three weeks of the calendar, Frank de Boer was able to start the same starting lineup that was clinical in victory over Minnesota United on Wednesday: Brad Guzan (GK), Michael Parkhurst (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Eric Remedi (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Julian Gressel (CM), Dion Pereira (LW), Josef Martinez (ST), Pity Martínez (RW).
Atlanta United’s pressure was suffocating right away, and they made the pressure count with an early piece of magic between the two players named Martinez. It started with nice combination play between Pity and Escobar –– just one instance of their growing partnership on the right side –– with Martínez playing in Escobar, who back-heeled back to Pity. Martínez held off the defender and played a dream pass that completely split the defense in two, setting up Josef Martinez to slot it home clinically from close range.
Chicago forged a few half-chances, with Francisco Calvo finding space for an open header only to head the ball wide. But Atlanta United got the crucial second goal just before the halftime whistle. Dion Pereira lofted a ball behind the defense, and Josef Martinez showed tremendous strength to hold off the defender and spring behind the back line, winning the foot race and smashing an unstoppable finish past the goalkeeper. It was Josef’s fifth goal in the past eight days, as he hits the form that won him the Golden Boot last season.
That would be all Atlanta United needed, who secured a club record fifth straight clean sheet win at home in front of more than 67,000 fans packing Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It means six wins over the stretch of 8 matches in 27 days that brings the Five Stripes up into first place in the Eastern Conference at the time of the final whistle.
The team now gets a rest with more than three weeks before their next league match. They’ll be back in action on the road in U.S. Open Cup play on June 11th against a familiar Open Cup foe, the Charleston Battery. They’ll return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on June 29th to face the Montreal Impact in a matchup of two teams fighting at the top of the Eastern Conference. Tickets to that are still available, so make sure to secure yours here.