Emerson Hyndman and Pity Martinez scored late goals as Atlanta United escaped with a 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But the true headline revolved around Josef Martinez, who sustained a leg injury and had to be stretchered off in the 79th minute.
Martinez’s injury overshadowed a win for Atlanta that guaranteed it a first-round home playoff match. It took the lead rather fortuitiously inside of 5 minutes through Justin Meram, whose shot from distance deflected off a San Jose defender and into the net.
Coming out HOT @JustinMeram smashes in the opener from deep! pic.twitter.com/3EFo9XxWIl— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 21, 2019
In the 27th minute, though. the Quakes leveled it. Goalkeeper Daniel Vega started a counter by playing it to Cristian Espinoza, who beat Justin Meram, made a goalward run and saw his shot slip past Guzan to make it a 1-1 game.
The match had a chance to take a turn toward Atlanta’s favor as Cristian Espinosa was shown a second yellow card after stepping on the leg of Franco Escobar in the Atlanta box. The Quakes, though, continued to ramp up the pressure as it hoped to leave town with at least a point to bolster its playoff chances, getting at least a couple of chances to go up despite playing a man light. Vega, for his part, came up with several highlight reel saves to keep it tied.
But in the 90th minute, Atlanta United caught some late match magic from Hyndman, who had missed a point-blank chance early on from in front of the net. Darlington Nagbe took his spade down the middle of the pitch and laid it off to the Texan, who fired it over Vega and into the net to make it 2-1.
Big players step up in big moments.— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 21, 2019
Sensational from @darlingtonnagbe.
Clinical from @emersonhyndman. pic.twitter.com/ci1AhUyt3V
“‘D’ made a great run, sent me through and thankfully I finished that one,” said Hyndman. “(On the miss earlier) it was one of those things that you react instinctively. I couldn’t believe it went wide but thankfully I redeemed myself.”
Not long after in stoppage time, Pity Martinez’s goal made it 3-1 and Atlanta were guaranteed 3 points.
Quick recap thought
Any other day we’d be celebrating an Atlanta United win, but the Josef Martinez injury just puts a damper over the whole day. And the timing couldn’t be worse: Atlanta have just 3 matches left before the playoffs, beginning with first-place NYCFC on Wednesday.
FdB on Josef: We will have to wait. Too early to predict. Not a good sign for him to come off like that. Should know more “hopefully tomorrow”. pic.twitter.com/uccBDh5jmm— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) September 21, 2019
If it’s long term, then there’s decisions to make (whether it’s Tito Villalba or Brandon Vazquez) as to who starts up top both to wrap the regular season and headed into the playoffs. But let’s hope that it’s not and that the King’s ready to roll sooner rather than later.
DSS Man of the Match
Hyndman for the game winner.
NYCFC on Wednesday. Kickoff at 7 p.m. from Yankee Stadium.