Atlanta United Wins Home Opener Behind Record-Breaking Crowd

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Jeff Larentowitz hugs Miguel Almirón after scoring a goal. Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Another record-breaking crowd helped spur on Atlanta United to a 3-1 win in the 2018 home opener for the Five Stripes.

72,035 fans came to their feet when Josef Martinez slotted home the first goal of Atlanta’s second season in MLS. The goal came in the 24th minute after an assist from Hector Villalba that set up Martinez perfectly for the tap in.

Atlanta United supporters tifo. Credit: Curtis Compton AJC

Miguel Almirón doubled the home sides lead after a strike from the top of the box coming off a pass from Julian Gressel. Almirón also grabbed his first assist of the season, sending in a cross that found the back of the net off a header from Hector Villalba.

D.C. United would grab a consolation goal from Darren Mattocks in the 86th minute to bring the final score to 3-1 in favor of the home side.

The Five Stripes were coming off the heels of an embarrassing performance against the Houston Dynamo in week one. The loss provoked manager Tata Martino to change the team’s tactics to a 3-5-2 formatin.

“It’s something that we’ve been looking at since preseason.” Martino said. “Even in the preseason match against Nashville we played it for a period in that match. It’s something that we thought was opportune today to try it.”

The formation proved to be effective Sunday, allowing players to get up the field and into more comfortable positions.

After spending week one in the center back position, Jeff Larentowitz found himself in the defensive midfielder role where he spent last season.

“You get your captain back there in the back and certainly last year I played a majority of the time in the midfield.” Larentowitz said. “So, there is definitely a comfort level there.”

The comfort level gave Larentowitz the ability to be his best, recording six recoveries, four tackles, and five interceptions for the Five Stripes.

Tata’s change in formation not only helped Larentowitz, but also gave Greg Garza and Julian Gressel the opportunity to get further down the field. Gressel took full advantage of the opportunity as he recorded his first assist of the season off a perfect ball to Miguel Almirón.

The tactical change worked to perfection this match, but Martino is not giving up on the traditional 4-2-3-1.

“I think we played it well today, and it gave us more security at times.” Martino said. “I’m not saying that we’re going to play that way every game – the team is capable of playing both systems.”

Atlanta will look to make it two wins at home in the 2018 season as they host Western Conference opponent Vancouver Whitecaps on March 17.