Atlanta United were determined to kick off their Mercedes-Benz Stadium era in style, and they didn’t let their home fans down at all.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Josef Martinez and Greg Garza each had a goal and Tito Villalba registered a pair of assists as United coasted by FC Dallas 3-0 in rather comprehensive fashion. Dallas will be fortunate having only conceded three goals because if not for several strong stops by Jesse Gonzalez, an incredible goal line save by Matt Hedges, a couple of shots off the woodwork by Atlanta, and a penalty decision by Mark Geiger that was later reversed, it could have been much worse. United finished with twelve shots on frame on nineteen attempts, besting a previous season best of nine SOGs.
The match wasn’t without controversy and it came early as Atlanta would receive its first taste of video-assisted refereeing. In the 5th minute, Josef Martinez was taken down in the box and was originally awarded a penalty, but VAR wiped it out as Martinez was ruled (apparently) to be offside by the slimmest of margins. As it turned out, it was only a brief hiccup in what would end up being Atlanta’s night. Play certainly belonged to the Five Stripes early on as they fed off of a late arriving, but energetic crowd that hadn’t seen them play at home in some time. They’d break through in the 15th as Leandro Gonzalez Pirez found a Tito Villalba header at his feet in the box and got just enough for his first MLS goal and the first goal in Mercedes-Benz Stadium history.
They nearly made it two in the 19th as Carlos Carmona caught Villalba on a break, with Villalba fighting his way past defenders in front but being denied by Jesse Gonzalez to keep it at 1-0. Villalba was robbed yet again by Gonzalez after taking a beautiful cross from Greg Garza just a couple of minutes later.
It was essentially one-way traffic throughout the first half as Atlanta were quicker and sharper with their attack, defending and passing - and arguably could have been up several goals in the opening half hour. Dallas’ first real chance came in the 32nd minute off the foot of Ryan Hollingshead, but it sailed harmlessly out of bounds; they nearly tied it in the 41st as Brad Guzan’s touch got away from him before he was able to control it. Atlanta came back the other way and again had a chance to make it a 2-0 match, but Yamil Asad’s strike hit the crossbar. Another close call for Dallas came off the foot of Maxi Urruti, but Michael Parkhurst was up to the task with a great defensive play as it remained 1-0 at the half.
It didn’t stay that way for long. Right out of the locker room, off a midfield turnover, Almiron made a clinical pass from the left of the box to Martinez, who netted it for his 10th goal of the season (and first since July 4) to double the margin.
Martinez makes it 2-0 Atlanta!! pic.twitter.com/b96T9abl16— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) September 10, 2017
Dallas nearly got on the board themselves in the 55th minute courtesy of Acosta, but Guzan made himself big and denied his U.S. national teammate to preserve the shutout. He was called up on again in the 60th minute and made a highlight-reel save on Urruti as it remained 2-0 for the home side. In the 69th minute, though, Greg Garza stretched the margin after a pretty assist by Villalba (set up by a brilliant Martinez dummy) to make it 3-0 and leave Dallas with no way back.