Atlanta United secured three massive points in the hunt for the top seed in the Eastern Conference Sunday, overpowering a surging NYCFC side thanks to more historic goals from Josef Martinez.
Josef was the big pre-match news, recovering from an adductor injury in training this week to make Frank de Boer’s starting roster. The full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Leandro González Pirez (DEF), Miles Robinson (DEF), Franco Escobar (DEF), Justin Meram (MID), Eric Remedi (MID), Darlington Nagbe (MID), Julian Gressel (MID), Ezequiel Barco (MID), Pity Martínez (FWD), Josef Martinez (FWD).
Atlanta United came out on fire and nearly had several goals in the first ten minutes. Julian Gressel sent two pinpoint crosses to Josef Martinez in the backline, but NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson came up big to save his side going behind early. It seemed like Miles Robinson had put the team in top in the 33rd minute, but video review ruled it out for a foul in the box on a free kick. But Atlanta United finally got the goal they deserved just before halftime, and it was a historic moment in front of the 17s. It was a beautiful cross to the back post from Julian Gressel and Josef Martinez finished it from there, rising above the defender to smash home a trademark header to take the lead. It was his 10th straight MLS match with a goal, a new league record.
Atlanta United extended the lead just after half, and it came from a moment of magic from Pity Martínez. The Argentine beat defender after defender to get into the NYCFC box, and beat one more, only to be brought down for a penalty. Josef Martinez stepped up and was ruthless as ever, smashing it past the outreached hands of Sean Johnson for his 20th goal of the season.
Emerson Hyndman and Jeff Larentowicz came in to bring fresh legs in place of Ezequiel Barco and Eric Remedi in the ATL UTD midfield. NYCFC got one back with ten minutes left, but Atlanta United held them at arm’s length for the rest of the match to secure the 2-1 victory. The win pushed them tied for first place in the East at the time of the final whistle. The team will be back in action on Wednesday in the Campeones Cup against Club América on Wednesday –– make sure you’ve secured your tickets here.