Atlanta United cruised to a 4-1 win thanks to three goals from Josef Martinez and a Vancouver Whitecaps own goal as the Five Stripes dominated wire to wire against an away squad that played with ten men for the majority of the game.
In the 8th minute Kendall Waston rocked Leandro Gonzalez Pirez with an elbow to the head as the ball deflected into the path of Franco Escobar. Escobar’s shot clattered into Vancouver keeper Stefan Marinovic for what looked a stunning missed opportunity for the Five Stripes. But with LGP still on the floor, VAR slowly awoke from it’s deep slumber in the depths of Valhalla (or whatever, still unclear on VAR) and awarded a penalty to Atlanta and a red card to Waston five minutes later.
“I tried to block him for the cross,” Gonzalez Pirez said. “When he turned, his momentum brought his arm into my jaw.”
After the dust cleared, Josef Martinez finally stepped up to the spot in the 15th minute and put the Five Stripes up 1-0. Tata Martino summed up the magnitude of the play in the postgame with one word: “Decisive.”
“Any play where a player is sent off and we have a chance to score a goal, it’s a before and after in the game,” Martino said through a translator.
Atlanta dominated 10-man Vancouver for the rest of the half but with no end result. The Five Stripes created and squandered multiple opportunities, including a blown 3-on-1 situation, and a missed tap in from Miguel Almiron to keep it 1-0 heading into the locker room.
The second-half opened in much of the same way as the Five Stripes continued to create and miss opportunities. Fortunately, Vancouver was polite enough to score for us.
Moments later, Josef Martinez put the game to bed.
Josef doing Josef tings pic.twitter.com/nnGbmWQ3Tx— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) March 18, 2018
Vancouver pulled back a goal in the 85th minute, ending a chance at the first clean sheet of the year. None of that mattered though because OHMYGOOODDDD LOOK AT THIS ANDREW CARLETON PASS.
Minutes after entering the game, the homegrown put a hat-trick on a platter for Josef with a beautiful cross for his first professional assist.
“Julian played a pass to me and I said Josef can jump so he can go get this so I put it up there,” Carleton said. “He did a great job of going up and getting it.”
While Martinez may not have been as ecstatic for Carleton as the rest of the fan base, he was at least happy to see a clean cross come his way.
“If he’s giving me assists, I’m happy for him” Josef said through a translator. “I’m happy for him though. He’s a player who’s doing things well. He’s got a lot of room to grow but he just has to keep doing things the way he is with his head in the right spot and working for his place for the team.”
That hat-trick is Martinez’s fourth in his MLS career. His next hat trick will tie the MLS record for a player. It hasn’t taken long for him to get there.
Atlanta outshot Vancouver 21-6 on the night. It was as boring as a 4-1 win can be. That’s a good thing. The Five Stripes were comfortably dominant. Despite the complete ownership of the game, Tata still saw room for improvement.
“I was a little worried in the first half. It wasn’t because of the chances we were missing, but I didn’t think after the expulsion of Waston we handled the game the way we should have,” Martino said. “I think we should have circulated the ball more from side to side and had more possession. We didn’t really take advantage of the width of Julian and McCann on the sides.”
Even with a few missed chances, Atlanta has turned a complete 180 from the first game against Houston. We’ll have to wait an extra week before the Five Stripes travel to Minnesota on March 31 but hopefully we see Atlanta bring the same team from the Benz to Minneapolis. Even if we do lose in Minneapolis though, just remember; We still have two more wins than Orlando City. Who have none.