For only the second time in the last five matches, Atlanta United FC have added a point to their total. After their worst loss of the season at New York City FC, they headed to Portland needing a result against an always-dangerous Timbers side and were able to get one in the form of a 1-1 draw. Tata Martino shook things up a little in the lineup: Julian Gressel started on the right wing while Miguel Almiron took his place in Gressel’s usual spot in the middle. Yamil Asad, back from a one-game ban, started in left wing to flank Tito Villalba (not Kenwyne Jones, who came on later) up top.
In an ironic twist, it was Providence College grad Gressel getting the first of his career at Providence Park to open the scoring after a goalless first 45 minutes. Jeff Larentowicz found Villalba near the box, whose pretty backheel pass to Gressel was knocked home perfectly past Jake Gleeson just 24 seconds into the second half.
But just minutes later (in the 50th), Liam Ridgewell found himself in front of the net virtually unmarked and slotted in a David Guzman free kick to level it. Perhaps it was an offside (only just from my vantage point), but a man can’t get a free run that easily - and it burned United as they surrendered the equalizer.
The remainder of the match was pretty much white knuckle time for Atlanta as they looked to see things through to the final whistle with a point (at worst) still in the balance. Meanwhile, Portland were knocking on the door and saw their best chance come on several close calls in the 74th minute, ignited by Fanendo Adi’s right footed attempt and ending with a second attempt that was knocked out by Larentowicz. United fans would need to hold their breaths again in the first minute of stoppage time as Portland nearly pulled ahead again, but Guzman’s attempt after regaining possession after a poor set piece caromed off the near post to keep it at 1-1. A late corner kick came to naught for the Timbers and the game would end with Atlanta earning a big point away from home.
It’s needed momentum for Atlanta that they can build off of as they host in back-to-back matches for the first time this season. On Saturday night, they take on Erick Torres and a high-powered Houston Dynamo team on Saturday that have yet to win away from BBVA Compass Stadium. New York City FC pay a visit on the 28th as Atlanta look to avenge a bad 3-1 loss suffered at Yankee Stadium a week ago today. We’ll see if Josef Martinez is fit enough to return to the lineup and help give the team a boost as they look to hold serve at Bobby Dodd Stadium.