Josef Martinez’s goal in the 47th minute delivered a 1-0 win to Atlanta United over LAFC, boosting the Five Stripes’ push for the playoff line. It was Josef’s first goal at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium since Oct. 2019 and the first time Atlanta United has earned two MLS wins on the bounce this season.
The only change to interim head coach Rob Valentino’s starting lineup from Atlanta United’s win over the Columbus Crew was the reintroduction of Josef Martinez to the starting XI. Jackson Conway filled in for Josef against the Crew, as Josef was previously serving a suspension for his red card in the Montreal game.
New Designated Player signing Luiz Araújo didn’t feature in the match day squad, but was introduced to the home fans before the start of the game.
Atlanta United created a handful of chances throughout the first half, but not many of those chances were particularly threatening. That was the case until the 35th minute, when Ezequiel Barco slipped the ball to Josef Martinez for the best chance of the first half, but Josef failed to get the ball past LAFC goalkeeper Tomas Romero.
After failing to convert at the other end, LAFC punished Atlanta United off of a set piece five minutes later through Mamadou Fall’s header. However, VAR came to the rescue and took the goal back for an offside infringement.
That was definitely the biggest chance of the first half, and knowing the type of personality that Josef Martinez is, he was surely unhappy with fluffing his teams’ best chance of the game at that point. So when Barco received Moreno’s long pass to set Josef up again two minutes into the second half, he made sure to score and give Atlanta the 1-0 lead.
“I try to find my partner, and I have a good relationship with him [Barco],” Josef said postgame. “I have a lot pressure because I need to make [goals] here. I like to play against good teams, with amazing ... fans, so it’s a little special.”
As one might expect while trying to hold onto a 1-0 lead during stoppage time, Atlanta United gave it their all to carry out the win. Anton Walkes’ slide in Atlanta’s penalty area, Alan Franco’s last ditch tackle, and Bello’s dominance over his opponent were all indicative of what Atlanta United had to do to earn all three points.
“At times if we have to defend, we need to defend,” Valentino said. “It’s two sides to the game, we can’t think we can only do one side. I was still going for it, we were still going for it, but we’re winning now, [the thinking was] how can we be a little more shored up defensively, and then can we keep the ball from there and create more chances from it.”
- It wasn’t a perfect game from Atlanta United’s point of view, but it was enough. Atlanta outperformed LAFC in team xG and shots on target, 1.1 to 0.8 and six to three respectively. Meanwhile, LAFC managed to create 16 shots to Atlanta’s nine, though that may say more about the quality of chances created on both sides.
- With three goals in his last three games, Josef Martinez is starting to hit goalscoring form at the perfect time. Add Ezequiel Barco’s improvement since his return to Olympics, Luiz Araújo’s introduction to the squad, and Gonzalo Pineda coming into the fold, and Atlanta could do something this season. I’m not sure what that is, but the potential projection of this team is definitely looking better then it was just a month ago. All we can do is see how it continues to play out.
Atlanta United’s next matchup comes at home against Eastern Conference opponent Toronto FC this Wednesday at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.