A few goals came from unexpected sources for both Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Atlanta United in Saturday afternoon’s match in Canada. But the Five Stripes found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline thanks to a few letdowns by their defense and will head into a matchup with the Chicago Fire looking to avoid a two-game losing streak.
It was Atlanta United finding the scoreboard first courtesy of Miguel Almiron...actually, just kidding. If you had Greg Garza down as a goalscorer for Atlanta, you have a very strange and unusual sense of foreknowledge. It all started with Yamil Asad demonstrating terrific field vision to find Julian Gressel running toward the box. Gressel played it across to Greg Garza, who came in unmarked and fired a perfect first touch past David Ousted for his first goal in MLS. Remember how I said that a few goals were coming from unexpected sources? It was Garza’s first goal for club or country since the 2015-16 season with Xolos in Liga MX and only the fourth of his professional career. Credit to Asad and his ability to see the play develop and spot his man out wide, and that’s to take nothing away from Gressel. I mentioned it last week: Tata Martino’s decision to play him on the wing and let him create chances for the strikers continues to pay off.
Atlanta very well could have made it 2-0 about 15 minutes later. Gressel was at it again as he nearly found Asad making a run toward the net in the 21st minute off a Tyrone Mears throw, but the ball was cleared by a Whitecaps defender just in time. Vancouver would end up getting just enough of the play to put pressure on the Atlanta United defense and attempt to draw level.
That’s when the story began to turn the way of the home side. Vancouver did indeed break through in the 31st, thanks to some poor defending by Atlanta that saw Kendall Waston receive a chipped pass, control it in the box and fire it past Alec Kann with two Atlanta men getting there late. That was only Waston’s eighth goal in four seasons with the Caps.
Poor set piece defending doomed Atlanta toward the back end of the half, which served as foreshadowing for what was to come later on. In the 44th minute, Waston (who scored three goals all of last year) added his second of the match on a perfect header off a Whitecaps’ corner kick into the area that no United players were able to pick out. Atlanta could have equalized it just before the break, but Almiron’s throw into the box and Carlos Carmona’s subsequent header attempt found the woodwork as stoppage time expired.
A few opportunities for Vancouver to put more distance between them and Atlanta went wanting, but that changed in the 68th minute as United’s defending on set pieces let them down once more. Off another corner, Tim Parker was left unmarked and saw his initial shot stopped just short of the line by Kann, but Fredy Montero was there to clean up the rebound to make it 3-1. That’s where it would stay as Atlanta couldn’t find a way back into it.
Up next is a much improved Chicago Fire team at 4pm ET on Saturday. Don’t be fooled: the Fire aren’t the same Fire that got blitzed 4-0 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on March 18. With Chicago yet to lose at home (six wins and a draw), Nemanja Nicolic leading the Golden Boot race with 11 goals and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the mix, Atlanta will have their hands full in the Windy City next week.