Atlanta United set off fireworks of their own on the Fourth of July. Despite a sluggish first half, they turned on the jets with four second-half goals, capped by a game winner by Anton Walkes and the second of two by Josef Martinez, to beat the San Jose Earthquakes by a 4-2 count. Atlanta have now won five straight at home and head into the international break in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings pending results from tomorrow’s matches.
The game certainly didn’t start the way the home side would have liked though. Not even two minutes in and San Jose found themselves on the board after a poor piece of possession by Atlanta, leading to Tommy Thompson’s first career goal. Things got interesting a little later as Kofi Sarkodie ended up sent off thanks to a pair of yellow cards picked up in the first half, which seemed to tilt things in Atlanta’s favor.
The Five Stripes had significantly better play to start the second half and should have capitalized on the various chances they had in the opening 10 minutes. They’d finally break through in the 56th as a perfect cross by Greg Garza into the box saw a Josef Martinez header stopped by David Bingham - but Carlos Carmona was there to knock home a rebound to level the match.
The waves of pressure continued for Atlanta, and in the 65th minute, another cross by Garza to Martinez saw the Venezuelan add another tally to his account on a gorgeous, spot-on header to give Atlanta the lead.
But it didn’t last long as absolutely shocking defending off the draw allowed Chris Wondolowski to come free on the far post and score his eighth of the season to level it. It remained a 2-2 match until the 81st minute game-winner by Anton Walkes on - who knew! - a set piece.
“I was just lucky enough to get that contact on it.” Walkes said. “My eye was on the ball and...I was grateful enough to get the contact.”
Goal #4 by Atlanta was the result of some brilliant buildup by Miguel Almiron to Josef Martinez, who secured all three points for his team with his second of the match late in the 89th minute. Almiron hurdled his sliding man in front of the box before catching Martinez on a perfect run to set up a near-post tally for the forward.
“For the first time in a while we were able to win on the road against Columbus,” said Tata Martino. “I think it was important for us to get this win heading into the break and also to confirm that victory in Columbus with another win at home.”
Kyle Reynish, in his first start since October 2014, showed relatively well as he played in place of the injured Alec Kann. Neither goal could be blamed on him as you could point to a couple of pieces of poor defending by Atlanta this evening that led to the Quakes’ scores.
“It’s exciting to come out and play in front of such great fans,” Reynish said. “As soon as the ball kicks off and you get that first touch, you’ve done it so many times that everything falls into place.”
Atlanta are off until July 21 when they visit Orlando City SC in the first of a home-and-home. They turn around to host them eight days later in the final game at Bobby Dodd Stadium.