Julian Gressel was in on all 3 of Atlanta United’s goals - assisting on 2 goals and scoring one of his own - as the Five Stripes ended the regular season with a 3-1 win over the New England Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta United came out of the gates quickly as it scored inside of 3 minutes. Josef Martinez spotted Julian Gressel outside of the box on the right, and the German’s cross was touched perfectly by Darlington Nagbe past Matt Turner to make it 1-0.
But the Revolution leveled it through Cristian Penilla in the 8th minute thanks to poor defending on a long ball that saw the Ecuadorian get free on a break. Shaky play from the backline was a bit of the theme in the 1st half as some defensive mistakes and poor positioning threatened to doom Atlanta in this one.
Things slowed up for Atlanta through the opening 45 minutes after the Penilla goal, but it started the 2nd half as quickly as it did the 1st. Gressel fed in a lovely long ball to Martinez, who finished it off for his 27th goal of the season to make it 2-1 in the 49th minute.
The King is back— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) October 6, 2019
And he's hungry pic.twitter.com/tvOVYj4pNg
In the 57th minute, Gressel let loose a banger that caromed off the post and into the back of the net to up the margin to 3-1.
Some recap thoughts
That was just what the doctor ordered heading into the playoffs. For the first time in club history, Atlanta United won the 34th match of the regular season, and it was thanks in part to as good as a performance Gressel has turned in this season.
“It feels good. Most important is that we played good as a team,” said Gressel after the match. “After that second half, we go with our heads held high into the playoffs with a lot of confidence...Hopefully we end their season in a couple of weeks and repeat that performance from today.”
And the standings do mean that in the first round, Atlanta will face the Revs, who fought their way to just inside the playoff line after Bruce Arena took charge mid-season to finish 7th in the Eastern Conference. (NYCFC beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1 in what ended up being a meaningless result with Atlanta’s win.)
The Revs, of course, had a former defender on their rolls by the name of Michael Parkhurst, who played his final regular season match today in an Atlanta kit. While the journey’s not over for Parkhurst - there’s still the playoffs to go - the ovation he received after being subbed in for Gressel in the 79th minute will count among his most memorable moments here.
“They’re the best in the league. They have been since the very beginning,” said Parkhurst. “It’s no surprise that our record at home is so good. It’s because of the atmosphere they create. We don’t take them for granted. It’s a joy to play in front of them.”
“He’s taught me so much on and off the field,” said Miles Robinson. “How he composes himself, how he treats the game and studies the game. I can’t say how much he means to me and also this team and this city. It was great that he got the chance he deserved tonight.”
We hear you.— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) October 6, 2019
He hears you.
Thank you, Atlanta pic.twitter.com/9WQjuyV7PJ
Next up: Playoffs. Same two teams, same place on October 19. Kickoff time to be determined.