Atlanta United beat last-place FC Cincinnati 2-0 in commanding fashion, scoring twice through two spectacular Josef Martinez goals.
The match was essentially a must-win for Atlanta considering that the team only has four more matches left in the regular season to finish as high as possible in the Eastern Conference standings. Atlanta United lost its two previous matches against Philadelphia Union and the Columbus Crew and currently sits in third place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Philadelphia Union and six behind first-place NYCFC.
Atlanta’s performance against the Crew was a shocker, and many questions were asked about Atlanta’s lineup coming into the Cincinnati matchup. The only change was at the center back position with Leandro Gonzales-Pirez coming back into the lineup for Florentin Pogba.
Atlanta United was expected to win the match purely based on the quality of players and team standings, but just four days before Atlanta lost to 11th place Columbus Crew, so nothing was a given.
Atlanta started the game well, showing patience and discipline against a bunkering Cincinnati team. Cincinnati forced Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan to make an extraordinary save from a corner kick to keep it level. Atlanta controlled the ball well and finished the first half with 77% of the possession.
Josef opened the scoring in the 59th minute after making a full-field run and combining with Pity Martinez for a one on one opportunity with the opposing goalkeeper. Josef finished well and put it in the upper left side of the goal.
Just a few minutes later, Josef scored a world-class goal that can’t be described in words (2:10).
Those goals marked Josef’s 15th successive MLS match with at least one goal. He is only six regular-season matches away from equaling Lionel Messi’s world record from the 2012/2013 season.
Atlanta United must win every remaining game in the regular season and hope that NYCFC and Philadelphia drop points if they want to have a chance at earning first seed in the East.
Atlanta clinched a playoff spot last week after losing to Columbus Crew due to other results around the league and will face off against the San Jose Earthquakes on September 21st.
Photo Credits: Aaron Doster – USA Today Sports
Kyle Soto is a volunteer at The Wolf. Follow him on Twitter @kyledsoto for more soccer content.