On Tuesday night, Atlanta United looked to extend their home win streak to five against the San Jose Earthquakes. The Quakes have been a team in turmoil recently, firing long time manager Dom Kinnear. However, they still managed to beat California rivals, LA Galaxy 2-1 three days prior.
The biggest pregame news came when Atlanta United announced that goalkeeper Alec Kann will be out 6-8 weeks after sustaining an injury in last weeks game in Columbus. Therefore, Kyle Reynish got his first start for the Five Stripes.
Atlanta United started disjointedly, in what is becoming a very bad habit. It only took 2 minutes for San Jose’s high press to capitalize on Atlanta’s lackadaisical start. Tommy Thompson scored his first career goal. A bad giveaway in the midfield and a deflection led to the ball landing right at the strikers feet, with Reynish unable to do anything but watch the ball sail into the back of his net.
However, in the 32nd minute, Kofi Sarkodie was shown a red card after accumulating two yellow cards, putting Atlanta up a man for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, while this allowed Atlanta to grow into the game and enjoy more possession of the ball; they failed to capitalize on their advantage before halftime.
In the second half, Atlanta came out determined and in the 55th minute Carlos Carmona was able to level things. The goal came from a bit of sustained position leading to a beauty of a cross from left back, Greg Garza. None other than Josef Martinez was able to rise above his defender and head the ball towards goal. However, a herculean save from the San Jose keeper was able to get a hand on the ball. Carmona was lurking in the six yard box ready to tap the ball in for the goal.
Just ten minutes later, another marauding run from Garza led to another perfect cross and this time Martinez was able to power the header past David Bingham for the go-ahead goal. However, just a minute later, San Jose was able to level things through their talisman, Chris Wondolowski. Young right back, Anton Walkes switched off after the goal and allowed Nick Lima to serve up a ball for Wondolowski, who had drifted off of Leanardo Gonzalez Pires’s back shoulder and smacked the ball home past Reynish.
This trend of conceding a goal right after scoring one has become a dangerous one. It has happened at least in at least five games now this season. Recall the games at Toronto, at Montreal, at Portland and against the Charleston Battery in the US Open Cup. If Atlanta want to be an elite team in the MLS, they need to figure out how to stay focused defensively after scoring.
Luckily, Anton Walkes redeemed himself in the 81st minute by scoring the second go-ahead goal of the game for Atlanta, from a set-piece. Atlanta have been notoriously bad from set-pieces, defending them and especially scoring from them. However, the big right back was able to power past his marker and get on the end of the cross to score the game winner.
.@AntonWalkes make it 3-2 🙌
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) July 5, 2017
8 minutes later, Martinez found the back of the net again. Almiron made his mark on the game as well, slaloming through the midfield and past a sliding defender to lay the ball right to the field of the ever-dangerous front man. Martinez fooled the keeper and put the ball near post past David Bingham to ice the game.
Let’s talk about how prolific Josef Martinez has been in front goal this season. The man has scored nine goals in as many appearances. He is averaging one goal every 66 minutes played. To put that in perspective, Nemanja Nickolic, who leads the MLS with 16 goals, only averages a goal every 98 minutes. To state the obvious, Martinez is a monster in front of goal.
In a inconsequential series of events Victor Bernardez received a red card for a rash challenge on Martinez in the 93rd minute. The Quakes effectively ended the game with only nine men on the field. However the game was already decided thanks to Martinez’s second goal.
The Five Stripes have now won five consecutive games in Bobby Dodd Stadium and are sitting in 4th place in the East, pending the July 5th games, not a bad place to be going into the international break that effectively marks the halfway point of the MLS season. It’s time we can officially say Atlanta United should be a playoff team and possibly even an MLS Cup contender.