Josef Martinez can’t stop scoring, and Atlanta United can’t stop winning at home. The Venezuelan netted his seventh goal of the season in as many games, and Alec Kann kept his first clean sheet in nearly three months, in Atlanta’s 1-0 victory over the visiting Colorado Rapids.
The first half didn’t really bring a great deal of action as Colorado were able to prevent Atlanta from getting their usually speedy attack kicked up. They were able to effectively stifle United and shut off space for them to get space to work with near the net. The biggest chance for either team didn’t come until the 40th minute, with Dillon Serna’s strike hitting the woodwork as Atlanta barely avoided going down 1-0. Atlanta’s best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes came on a free kick in injury time, but Miguel Almiron’s attempt from just outside the box went straight into the arms of Tim Howard.
Atlanta came out the aggressor in the second half and saw more success when they began to force the action and make Colorado conform to their brand of soccer. They attacked with waves of pressure and were certainly out for goals to end the deadlock and pull ahead. But just moments after Brandon Vazquez was subbed in for Tito Villalba in the 63rd minute, they finally broke through - and guess who had the goal.
Great work from Vazquez and Josef does what Josef does. pic.twitter.com/ghbUqTG2Kg— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) June 25, 2017
“Whenever Josef’s on the field, we have expectations that he’s capable of scoring,” said Atlanta coach Tata Martino. “He has skills inside the box that few forwards in the world have. It’s a welcome return for our team.”
“It was a play where I think Jeff Larentowicz) played me down the line,” Vazquez said of the assist. “I played the ball back to the six-yard box to where Josef was...I was looking for the best option, and Josef was there and took care of the rest.”
About 33 minutes, a near goal by Brandon Vazquez on a pretty cross by Almiron, and a last-gasp Rapids corner kick and Kann doorstep save later, Atlanta were celebrating another three points at home - their fourth straight home victory - and their first clean sheet since recording back-to-back ones on March 18 against the Chicago Fire and March 31 at Seattle Sounders FC.
“Everyone was going to challenge for the ball. I was just trying to get myself between the ball and the goal,” Kann said of the final Colorado corner. “It was headed toward me and I got my body behind it and got on the rebound.”
“It was an important victory. We’re happy to get the three points,” Martinez said. “(Tim Howard) made some big saves tonight. Luckily I was able to convert one of my chances, and that’s why the three points stayed home tonight.”
Atlanta’s next two matches are away from Bobby Dodd: first against the NASL’s Miami FC on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup’s round of 16 and then at Columbus Crew SC on July 1, set to be their second match against Crew SC in as many weeks. Atlanta have only managed one out of a possible fifteen points in their last five road MLS matches, going 0-4-1 in that span.
“We definitely started the season off getting better results on the road, but we need to get back to bringing the same energy and passion into our play on the road as we do at home,” Michael Parkhurst said. “The environment’s not like it is here, so we need to rely on ourselves to bring that energy...and commit to (our style).”