Atlanta United secured its spot in the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs with a 4-1 win over visiting CF Montreal on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The added three points brings Atlanta to 49 points in 31 games with a 13-10-8 record. The Five Stripes rise to fifth in the East and (as of the writing of this recap) are level on points with fourth place Philadelphia Union and just one point under 3rd place Orlando City SC.
On the heels of its third match in eight days, Atlanta United decided to roll out possibly its strongest starting XI featuring a front three of Xande Silva, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Saba Lobjanidze with Thiago Almada pulling the strings in midfield alongside Tristan Muyumba.
Jamal Thiare, the latest addition to the club, was on the bench to make a potential debut.
Interestingly enough, Santiago Sosa and Derrick Etienne Jr. were missing from the 18-man gameday roster for the second and third week in a row, respectively. Both have been seemingly supplanted by the summer signings who have had an undeniable impact on the team’s performance.
Although it took Atlanta a few minutes to truly get into the game, it quickly took control with intense pressure that forced turnovers and caused all sorts of problems for the visitors.
The opener came for the hosts courtesy of Silva in the 30th minute when he easily dispatched a low cross by Lobjanidze to score his second goal with the club. The assist on the goal was Lobjanideze’s third in just over 200 MLS minutes.
XANDE CANNOT STOP SCORING pic.twitter.com/0CLgPWvYbu— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 24, 2023
The Five Stripes doubled the lead just three minutes later after Silva skillfully maneuvered past Jonathan Sirois before crossing to Almada who finished easily to make it 2-0. The 22-year-old Argentine now totals 10 goals this season while the 26-year-old Porto native nabbed his second assist.
Montreal pulled one back before the end of the half when a long ball to Atlanta’s right flank led to a cutback for Ahmed Hamdi who had plenty of time and space to rifle it past Brad Guzan. The visitors cut the deficit to 2-1 after 40 minutes.
The Five Stripes created a truckload of chances in the first half, outshooting Montreal 9-5 and putting five on target to the visitors’ one. It was clear that Atlanta’s intense pressure was causing all sorts of issues for Montreal.
The second half started very brightly for Atlanta as Giakoumakis scored his 15th goal of the season to reestablish the Five Stripes’ two-goal lead. Atlanta’s high press yielded the desired result as a turnover upfield allowed the 28-year-old Greek international to chip the keeper and make it a 3-1 game.
Put some respect on Giorgos's name pic.twitter.com/XSFeEE5QgZ— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 24, 2023
Giakoumakis once again draws level with Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar at the top of the Golden Boot race.
Thiare came on for his debut and had a great chance that was stopped by Joel Waterman who was issued a red card for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.
Edwin Mosquera put a bow on the win by firing home an Almada cutback to make it 4-1 to the hosts. Mosquera now has two goals on the season while Almada makes it 16 assists.
This was the first time we got to see Atlanta United’s true best XI and the signs are encouraging. The attacking looks fluid, energetic and very fun to watch as Almada and Giakoumakis finally have the right players around them to make more good things happen in the final third.
We also got our first look at Thiare who made his debut in the 83rd minute and didn’t look too bad for his first appearance. He won his team a numbers advantage in the play that led to a Montreal red card and got himself in decent spots in the box. The decision-making needs some work, but that comes with time.
Atlanta United’s next match is a visit to the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, October 4 at 7:30 p.m. in Subaru Park.
What did you think of the match? Let us know in the comments below.