A 30th minute red card sent Atlanta United down to ten men and Sporting Kansas City outscored the short-sided Five Stripes squad to come away with a 2-0 road win on Wednesday night in a matchup between the Eastern and Western Conference leaders.
It appeared as if Atlanta United had taken the lead inside the first five minutes but a Josef Martinez goal was negated by our friends in the VAR lair who deemed him offside in the most polarizing decision of the night.
After Video Review, the goal for Josef Martinez & @ATLUTD has been disallowed for offside. #ATLvSKC https://t.co/kn4gNMdYmD— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 9, 2018
Atlanta continued to pile on shots but couldn’t find a way to get past Tim Melia in goal. As the stack of thrown away chances continued to grow bigger, it felt as if it was only a matter of time before the missed opportunities came back to bite the Five Stripes but that’s probably just me being pessimistic and being uneasy about an Atlanta team being successful and I’m probably over thinking it annnnnnnnddddddddddddddd Brad Guzan is sent off.
You can't do that! Atlanta United's Brad Guzan gets a red card for his challenge on Shelton #SportingKC pic.twitter.com/9ZSepvVci7— FOX Sports Kansas City (@FSKansasCity) May 10, 2018
Even with a man advantage, Sporting was unable to force newly inserted keeper Paul Christensen – an “extreme hardship” signing from ATL UTD 2 on a four-day contract with Atlanta United – to make a save.
The game went into halftime goalless but nonetheless felt entirely flipped on its head by the red card. What was looking to be your standard dominant home performance by Atlanta turned into the Five Stripes holding on for life a man down.
The first action of the second half came just three minutes in when Christensen made his first MLS save in front of 45,000 people. Johnny Russel got in behind the defense but the Portland grad met Russell at the top of the 18-yard-box and cleared it away. It was SKC’s first attempt on target.
Sporting continued to send shots toward Christensen at every available opportunity while Atlanta predictably struggled to find opportunities down a man. In the YYY minute, Kansas City and Daniel Shalloi ended the deadlock.
This is the sound of a 21-year-old silencing 44,696 people in about 10 seconds.— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) May 10, 2018
WHAT A GOAL! #ATLvSKC 0-1 | #ForGloryForCity pic.twitter.com/ZPlackuZ3i
Atlanta’s best chance to equalize came late in the half when Sporting hand ball and then a foul gave Atlanta United two free kick opportunities in Kratz Country. Both of Kratz’s on target attempts were saved by Melia in eerily identical fashion.
We're seeing double on these @TimMelia28 free kick saves. pic.twitter.com/bEImcbfHh9— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 10, 2018
Kansas City slammed the door shut moments later.
⚽️ WATCH @ge7fe put the game on ice!— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) May 10, 2018
What a massive result this is... #ATLvSKC 0-2 | #ForGloryForCity pic.twitter.com/kwIdSy5xxm
All in all, a bad night against a good team, but there were bright spots. Despite playing a man down most of the match Atlanta held SKC to only three shots on target while putting eight shots of their own on frame.
Atlanta and Tata Martino could also be heartened by the reappearance of the Tata’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. Before the red card, the Five Stripes were controlling the game against a team near the top of the Supporters Shield race.
“I thought it was working very well,” Martino said through a translator. “We were even winning 1-0. Aside from all the chances we created we were winning 1-0, but they took the goal away. It’s difficult to play the way were playing against one of the best teams in the league.”
The Five Stripes now have to regroup for the first time in almost two months as their eight game unbeaten streak comes to a close. Looming on the horizon is a huge road trip to Orlando to face an OCSC team who has won their last six games in what is definitely not a rivalry game. The game is on Sunday at 6 p.m.. I hope we beat them by 80. I’m going to go yell at the sky until I feel better. Like many of the players and coaches postgame I don’t have much else to say. This game was trash.