Thanks to two goals a piece from Kevin Kratz and Miguel Almiron, Atlanta United fought through a frustrating opening 70 minutes to score four goals in the final 20 minutes of play and bulldoze past the Montreal Impact in a 4-1 win on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta.
Atlanta seemed in control early. Montreal looked content to pile their defenses in the back and concede possession, but the Five Stripes nearly made them pay in the seventh minute. A cross from Julian Gressel found Josef Martinez in front of the six-yard-box, but Martinez sent the initial header and the ensuing rebound directly at Montreal keeper Evan Bush. Despite Atlanta creating opportunities and Montreal appearing to have no interest in advancing the ball past midfield, the Impact struck first.
In the 13th minute, Montreal found a goal in their first attacking move of the day. A stellar cross from Chris Duvall sailed over the head of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Saphir Taider finished an unmarked chance for a stunning 1-0 lead.
Montreal immediately retreated back into trench warfare mode and Atlanta piled on chances, including a disallowed Jeff Larentowicz goal after Josef Martinez got caught offside. The Five Stripes couldn’t find a breakthrough though and trailed at the half despite holding the ball 77% of the time and out-shooting the Impact 11-2
With more firepower needed, Tata swapped out Jeff Larentowicz for Tito Villalba at the break. However, even with the attack-minded change, the second half continued where the first half left off. Atlanta continued to press forward, but the attack appeared out of ideas other than sending the ball to Greg Garza or Gressel to play in crosses.
Atlanta finally caught a break in the 70th minute. A ball into the box found Chris McCann who attempted to play it back across goal. The ball caught the hand of Duvall, earning McCann a penalty for the Five Stripes. Almiron stepped up to the spot and slipped the ball past Evan Bush to make it 1-1.
It ... uh ... it went in! pic.twitter.com/RRhvMTSeU3— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) April 28, 2018
Minutes later, Kevin Kratz made the most of his contractually obligated substitute appearance. With a dead ball opportunity 20 yards out, OOHHHHMMMMYYY LOOORRDDD LOOKIT WHAT HE DID.
Congrats to Kevin Kratz on winning MLS Goal of the Week pic.twitter.com/gTmXBOYFsf— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) April 28, 2018
Atlanta continued to pour it on and Almiron picked up his second from a
totally accidental world class back heel from Josef to set up the worm burning goal for Miggy.
Fortunately for everyone in attendance, Kratz had one more trick in his bag saved for stoppage team and OOOOHHHHH MMMYYYYY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSHHH THIS ONE WAS EVEN BETTER HOW IN THE WORLD
“In my time here in Atlanta, my teammates know that if there’s a free kick, they can rely on me and I will have a good chance to score or get in on goal,” Kratz said. “In the first situation, I said ‘Miguel, I think I will take this one.’ It was a similar situation on the second one too. They asked If I wanted to shoot and I said ‘Yes. I feel confident now.’ It felt pretty good and I’m happy to help the team because they invested a lot today.”
Since an opening day loss, Atlanta United has taken 19 points from 21 available and sit in first place for the time being. A team that struggled at times last year to take points from teams that bunkered behind the ball have shown none of those same signs this season.
“Last year, we were a new team and we were still getting to know each other on the field,” Almiron said through a translator. “This year, I think we’re better. We’re playing more as a team and that’s really important.”
It was a well-earned win against a team playing negatively from the first whistle, but a lopsided scoreline didn’t mean we saw a flawless performance from the Five Stripes. There were multiple instances where Atlanta nearly found themselves in a 2-0 hole, including a missed clear-cut chance shot directly at Brad Guzan.
“Montreal had a chance to score the second goal,” Tata said through a translator. “Now after the game, it’s easy to say ‘Oh, everything turned out wonderful with the substitutions and the goals that we scored and everything went perfect’, but looking back that wasn’t the case.”
It may not have been perfect, but it was still dominant. Atlanta held the ball for 72% of the game and outshout Montreal 20-6. The Impact put two shots on target compared to seven for the Five Stripes. In the end though, the win came down to the man we all expected it to: Kevin Kratz.
Atlanta looks to keep a seven-game streak of non-losing results on track next Saturday as they travel to Chicago to take on the Fire.