Atlanta United left it late to beat the San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 on Saturday afternoon. Emerson Hyndman and Pity Martinez scored in stoppage time to give Atlanta all three points after Brad Guzan’s own goal had cancelled out Justin Meram’s early opener. Here are three thoughts from Atlanta’s home win, one for each goal.
The waiting game on Josef Martinez
Late in the game, with the score still level at 1-1, there was a sight that no Atlanta United fan ever wanted to see. Josef Martinez was stretchered off with a knee injury that left everyone concerned about his status going forward. While we don’t know the extent of the injury just yet, it’s possibly a terrible blow to Atlanta United’s plans as the playoffs approach.
The Venezuelan had been on a 15-game scoring streak, which came to an end on Saturday, and is far and away Atlanta’s most important player. Without him, Atlanta’s chances at a repeat fall drastically and for now, everyone associated with the club will be waiting with bated breath.
In the meantime, Frank de Boer should look to the likes of Tito Villalba to help lead the line for Atlanta. While his movement and eye for goal are nothing close to Martinez’s, his pace can stretch defenses and cause plenty of problems.
A home game is key
A home game to kick off the playoffs was always going to be a huge boost for Atlanta’s hopes of winning a second consecutive MLS Cup. Suddenly, as the team could be heading into that opener without Josef Martinez and maybe even Ezequiel Barco, that home game becomes all the more crucial. No playoff game is going to be a walk in the park and missing two of your most important attacking players makes things all the more difficult. Clinching a home playoff game now gives Atlanta United a chance to play in a much more comfortable atmosphere, rather than going on the road throughout the playoffs.
Is Emerson Hyndman the key?
Since joining Atlanta United back in July, Emerson Hyndman has come up big when it matters. The American scored in both the Quarter Final and Semi Final of the US Open Cup, as well as scoring in the Campeones Cup victory over Club America. Then on Saturday, Hyndman popped up yet again with another big goal, this time powering home the winner against San Jose.
Already proving he’s no stranger to the big moments early in his Atlanta United career, Hyndman is making a strong case to being the key to helping Atlanta move toward another MLS Cup in the potential absence of Josef and Barco.