Breaking Down Atlanta United’s 3-1 Win Over Real Salt Lake

atlanta united vs. real salt lake

*Featured Image Courtesy of Atlanta United

Final Score: Atlanta United FC 3 – 1 Real Salt Lake  

Man Of The Match: Carlos Carmona

Full Game Highlights

It wasn’t always pretty, but Atlanta United FC walked away from their last game of a 4-game road stretch with a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake. It was a hectic and frantic game at times, especially toward the end when RSL was looking for the equalizer. Unlike the game in Montreal, that saw United give up a late goal, this time it was they who iced the game in the waning seconds.  Late into second half stoppage time, two Atlanta United substitutes, Gressel and a debuting Brandon Vazquez, combined for the insurance tally, and officially put the game out of reach for the home team. A great ending to a somewhat frustrating road trip for Atlanta.

Here is a breakdown of the game:

Atlanta United came out the in same formation as last week, with Kenwyne Jones up top and Asad inserted back on the left wing after his suspension. Gressel made way for Almiron in the center of the pitch, while Mears took his right back spot back after his injury. Here is the full line-up:

atlanta united starting 11 vs. real salt lake
*Courtesy of Atlanta United

As with the last 3 games, Atlanta took the lead in the first half. In the 9th minute Atlanta put pressure on RSL’s defense and forced a bad pass out of goalkeeper, Nick Rimando. In the scramble for the pass, the ball popped loose to Garza who quickly passed the ball to Almiron whose shot tested Rimando from just inside the 18.  Rimando was up to the task and parried the ball away.  Fortunately, the ball fell to an onrushing Villalba whose stinging shot was also saved, but he followed up his own shot with another and finally beat Rimando to put Atlanta up 1-0. It was the hectic type of play that epitomized the night overall.

Villalba Puts Atlanta United Up 1 vs. Real Salt Lake

The early goal rattled RSL, and it took to around the 30 minute mark for RSL to really start pressing for the equalizer.  The defense held strong, and Atlanta United withstood the wave of attacks from RSL and made it to halftime a goal up.

Just after halftime, Atlanta capitalized on another RSL mistake. Good pressure from Atlanta caused RSL defender, Chris Wingert, to get caught in possession.  Almiron stole the ball from Wingert and dribbled into the box.  Rimando, RSL’s netminder, came charging out to cut down the angle. Almiron saw the charging Rimando and quickly passed to Asad, who calmly dodged one defender and finished in an open net.  The eventual game winner, put Atlanta 2 up with nearly a full half to play.

Atlanta United vs. Real Salt Lake 4/22
*Courtesy Of Atlanta United

Real Salt Lake finally found their footing in the game in the 69th minute when Albert Rusnak pulled one back from the top of the box. The goal happened directly after Michael Parkhurst made a charging run forward after winning the ball in midfield. Parkhurst’s run forward made a big hole in the defense for RSL to exploit, and exploit it they did. It was a good counter attack from RSL, who, up until that point, had yet to test Alex Kann during the second half.  Atlanta kept their shape for the rest of the game, and Kann had very little to do for the remaining 21 minutes plus stoppage time.  For as hectic as the game was in the final 20 minutes, the defense held firm and kept RSL from getting any more shots on target.

As the seconds of the game ticked away, a debuting Brandon Vazquez sealed the game with a 1-on-1 breakaway with RSL substitute keeper, Matt Van Oekel. In the 96th minute, Vazquez received the through ball from fellow substitute, Julian Gressel. Gressel’s pass pulled out Van Oekel and Vazquez did his best Josef Martinez impression, by rounding the keeper and finishing into an open net.

Here are some of the top story lines from the game:

Defense On Point:

At the beginning of the year everyone was talking about how Atlanta’s attack would be good, but the defense would suffer. That just hasn’t been the case, and against RSL the defense showed well again:

RSL passing map vs. Atlanta United
*Courtesy of

That is the passing map of RSL’s top three attackers.  Green arrows are completed passes, red are incomplete, yellow are key passes (passes that lead to a shot), and blue are assists. Notice they only completed one pass into the box all game long, and they didn’t have any passes that lead to a shot.

On top of that, with all the pressure Atlanta absorbed during this game, they only allowed 2 shots on goal.  Considering RSL was chasing the game for a majority of the 90+ minutes, Atlanta really limited RSL’s chances to get back in the match.

Welcome To The Game Vazquez!

There isn’t much you can normally say about a stoppage time substitute.  I guess Brandon Vazquez had other ideas. The 18 year old came on for the final 3 minutes and put the game to rest with just seconds remaining. He did all the nervous Atlanta fans a huge favor by coolly finishing his breakaway chance.  Doesn’t get much better for a debut:

Vazquez Scores The Insurance Goal On His Debut

I just want to point out that his strike rate is 1 goal every 3 minutes… so if he started the game the score could have easily been 30-1. Just sayin’.

Final Thoughts:

Road games in MLS can be ugly and we have had our fair share of rough games the last couple of weeks. This game was no different and to be honest, it was choppy and ugly at times. The last two games we had a 1-0 lead early, but ended up drawing Toronto and losing to Montreal. With better game management (and no red cards!) we were able to hold onto the lead, even when under serious pressure.

Next Game: 4/30- 3:00 EST-  Atlanta United FC vs. D.C. United

Who was your man of the match?  Let me know in the comments below!