Gabriel Heinze and his Atlanta United team became the first team to secure their spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals Tuesday evening after second half substitute Jurgen Damm scored a late winner against Liga Deportiva Alajuelense at Fifth-Third Bank Stadium.
Atlanta United earned two 1-0 wins over Alajuelense to finish the Round of 16 matchup 2-0 on aggregate.
If the first leg between Atlanta and Alajuelense was a fun filled, exciting match of chaos, the second leg could be described as the opposite of that. Neither team registered a shot on target in the first half, and the opening goal came in the dying minutes. However, as the game wore on, scoring chances and shots became more prevalent.
“These are our first two games of the season, so we need a little bit more time to gel,” Brooks Lennon said. “I think we’re creating chances, corner kicks, wide free kicks, we just need to play a little bit more together and I think we’ll be able to score more goals.”
The game came to life (comparatively) in the second half. Atlanta finished the game with 15 total shots. Five of those shots were on target, five were off target, and five were blocked. On the other end, Atlanta conceded seven shots, but only one was on target.
Inches from opening the score pic.twitter.com/3fjOs5zaAB— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) April 13, 2021
Goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo, the hero in the first leg matchup between these two teams, made his second appearance for the Five Stripes tonight. Last week in Costa Rica, he made a club record six CCL saves, and tonight he made one (1) with a reactionary kick save in the second half.
Josef Martinez started as captain for Atlanta tonight, though he wasn’t particularly dangerous. While Atlanta’s quality of play factors into how few touches Josef amassed throughout his 65 minutes on the field (9), chances are Josef won’t look like pre-ACL-tear-Josef for a while (and that’s okay).
When asked about Josef’s performance Tuesday, Heinze said (through a translator), that he wants Josef to enjoy his time on the field. Shouldn’t we all?
The sample size will continue to grow as the season goes on, and what matters is that Atlanta made it through the opening round. Now Atlanta United will focus on the upcoming 2021 MLS season opener against Orlando City.