A physical evening at Mercedes-Benz Stadium ended with Atlanta United down a man and with their first home loss in twelve matches. Kevin Molino’s death strike with just over a minute left in injury time gave Minnesota United a 3-2 victory over their fellow expansion side.
Atlanta’s strategy without Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez in the lineup was to deal crosses in to Kenwyne Jones in hopes of getting one knocked in or to look to cut through the defense by having players like Tito Villalba make runs in the box. Neither team was quite able to break through, with the match turning chippy around the 30-minute mark as some physical play put Armando Villareal’s officiating to the test. The stiffest one came on a Collin Martin sliding tackle on Tito Villalba in the first half Martin, frankly, was fortunate to remain the game after.
The half ended without a goal between the two sides as neither keeper was heavily threatened over the first 45 minutes, but the big story was Chris McCann - starting at left back in place of the injured Greg Garza - giving way for Mikey Ambrose in the 44th minute.
Minnesota found the game’s first goal in the 49th minute on a big left-footed strike by Abu Danladi from the left side of the box that made it 1-0 for the visitors. Things would progress until the game took another sharp turn around the 60th minute and forced Villareal into another decision. Kyle Reynish made a harsh tackle on Danladi in the box, and after it was initially called a foul, it was rightfully upgraded to a red card ejection after going to VAR. That meant that Reynish would give way to Alex Tambakis, recording his first minutes in MLS history.
But the 10-man United weren’t daunted. They pulled level on a Villalba goal after a pair of deflections off of Minnesota defenders to level it in the 67th.
In the 72nd minute, Julian Gressel got Atlanta in the lead. Yamil Asad timed his pass ahead perfectly to Gressel, who drilled it in the top-left corner to make it a 2-1 game.
WE DON'T NEED 11 WHEN YOU HAVE ASAD AND GRESSEL pic.twitter.com/Nw45Vn2wcl— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) October 4, 2017
But Minnesota weren’t about to go down without a fight of their own.
In the 90th minute, off a Minnesota corner, a ball deflected off of Christian Ramirez trickled in through to the back of the net as the Loons were able to get back on terms late. Then, with just over a minute left in a seven-minute stoppage time session, Kevin Molino headed in a great ball sent in on a Jerome Thiesson cross to for the eventual game winner.
While Atlanta were down ten men, Tata Martino was pleased with how his team battled back to not only level it, but take the lead for a while before Minnesota’s late scores.
“The effort and determination was there, just like it always is,” he said. “In the second half, we weren’t able to play as well as we did in the first due to (the Reynish red card), so that changed the game.”
Martino felt that a questionable foul by Kallman on Tito Villalba in the first half - one that did not see a yellow card given, let alone a red - should have seen the Minnesota defender shown the door.
“For me, it was a foul that he should have been disqualified for. I think everyone in the stadium thought so. I think it was a foul that you didn’t even need video replay to see it was a red.”
It ends a disappointing two-game stretch for Atlanta that saw them claim only one of a possible six points. They remain three points behind New York City FC for the second seed in the Eastern Conference with both team heading into the international break and now level in games played. New York City are away to New England and home against Columbus in their final two matches; Atlanta are away to the Red Bulls on the 15th and wrap up their regular season against Supporters’ Shield winner Toronto FC on the 22nd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. United would hold a tiebreaker in goal differential if both teams finish level in points.