The three-headed monster of Josef Martinez, Tito Villalba and Miguel Almiron each found the net as Atlanta United beat the Columbus Crew at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first time in a 3-1 win on Sunday afternoon.
In the 31st minute, two milestones occurred: The Five Stripes finally beat Zack Steffen for the first time in Mercedes-Benz Stadium history, and some guy named Josef — with a little help from Julian Gressel — tied the MLS record for goals in a season.
Martinez’s 27th goal meant Gressel’s ninth assist, tying his record from his Rookie of the Year performance last season.
Predictably, Martinez didn’t have much to say about his shared spot on the MLS leader board.
“When I get to 28 then I’ll have something to say,” Martinez said through a translator.
Thanks to Martinez, Atlanta held the lead going into the locker room, however they didn’t hold on for long coming out of it.
Five minutes into the half, an acre of space opened for Gyasi Zardes at the top of the box and an easy finish tied the game at one and gave Zardes 14 goals on the season.
Atlanta United continued to struggle defensively as Zardes and company routinely found themselves in space. The Five Stripes were able to keep the Crew at bay though, and Tito Villalba rewarded them for their efforts by going on an adventure of a run that finally ended in an Atlanta lead.
DNLNFALNDFLDSNFLJD TTOTITOITIOTOITIOTIOTTITOTITOITOITOITOITOTTTOIITTTOOO pic.twitter.com/8hVEFKGqMC— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) August 19, 2018
When you’re as fast as Villalba, there’s no reason to make things too complicated.
“I started to run and really that’s it. The goal just kind of opened up by itself,” Villalba said through a translator. “It was kind of like a goal in FIFA. When I play, I play with Miguel or myself and we make runs like that.”
The simplicity of the goal didn’t take away from the sheer brutal efficiency of the goal, and certainly didn’t take away from Tata Martino’s celebration. Martino launched himself into the waiting arms of an assistant.
“t’s just a relief. We wanted to win at home. Every once in a while I’ll celebrate a goal like that. I thought the game in the second half was so beautiful I had the feeling I had to shout,” Martino said through a translator.
It wasn’t quite a FIFA goal, but Miguel Almiron gave Martino one more reason to shout. Up one, Almiron decided it was time to relieve some pressure from Columbus and from his critics.
Martinez didn’t have much to say about his record breaking goal, but had plenty to say about his friend’s backbreaking third score.
“I’m happy for him because I think he’s been slumping lately,” Martinez said. “I don’t remember the last time he scored but I know it’s been a while and I think he’s been feeling some of the pressure. I was happy for him. I think it’s important for him.”
With the win, Atlanta United stays a win ahead of New York Red Bulls in the Supporters’ Shield standings. With a potentially pivotal Hudson River Derby looming on Wednesday, Martino didn’t undersell the importance of a huge win over one of the league’s best teams.
“This is a great result,” Tata said. “I think with the win today we now have one more win this season than we did last season with nine games to play. This is one of those goals that you go setting and it’s good to reach those.”
Atlanta United returns to action later this week as they travel to Orlando to face a struggling Orlando City team that is bad and we should beat by 40.