ATLANTA — Franco Escobar scored in the 23rd minute and Josef Martínez added two goals in second-half stoppage time to give Atlanta United a 3-0 win over Minnesota United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Wednesday night. The victory ended a two-game losing streak for the Five Stripes.
“This is what we want to see, this is what the fans want to see,” manager Frank de Boer said in his postgame press conference. “Today was, for me, a very good example of what we can do. Still we can do much better, but still I think there were moments when we had the control, we didn’t make too many mistakes, silly mistakes. You see we controlled the game much better.”
Escobar’s goal came through a bit of good fortune for Atlanta. Julian Gressel played a nice ball to a streaking Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez at the top of the penalty area, but Minnesota center back Ike Opara deflected the pass. The ball fell to Escobar on the right side of the box. The fullback was unmarked and calmly finished inside the far post with his right foot from about 12 yards.
The Five Stripes mostly limited Minnesota’s attack over 90 minutes, but the visitors were unlucky not to pull level in the 74th. Following a corner, there was a mad scramble inside Brad Guzan’s six-yard box. Guzan made a point-blank save on Michael Boxall. The ball pinged around and eventually fell to substitute forward Angelo Rodriguez, who headed toward goal from two yards. Guzan and his woodwork combined to keep the Loons off the scoreboard. VAR checked to confirm a goal was not scored.
“It was crazy, a little chaos in the box,” center back Miles Robinson said after the game. “Obviously thankful that Brad made those big saves, so it was good.”
Guzan’s seventh clean sheet of the season is tied for the most among Major League Soccer goalkeepers.
Referee Alex Chilowicz called for seven additional minutes at the end of the 90. With Minnesota (6-5-3, 21 points) pushing forward late in the game, Josef Martínez was able to break free in transition. He put just one of his first four shots on target, but he found the net with his last two. The Venezuelan’s first goal of the game came at 90 + 2. He secured his brace at 90+ 5.
May 29, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar (2) celebrates his goal with forward Josef Martinez (7) during the first half against Minnesota United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
“It feels good because I had a lot of chances where I could have scored in the match, but for whatever reason, they didn’t go in,” Josef Martínez told reporters through an interpreter. “So it’s hard as a forward when you get so many chances, but you miss, you miss and you miss. You just have to keep trying, and I was really happy, especially on that second one.
“I was just walking, and the ball found me. It was like a glass of rum and I didn’t have to order it, it was just there.”
In his second start for the club, Dion Pereira created four chances, a game high. The 20-year-old Englishman terrorized Minnesota’s backline from his left wing position, beating fullback Hassani Dotson on the dribble several times and hitting dangerous crosses into the box. Pereira connected on 94 percent of his 32 passes.
“I think it was a massive improvement from the Salt Lake game,” Pereira said in the locker room. “I think, obviously, getting at my man every time. After the first time, it was a confidence boost, and my game was just to get at him as much as possible and put a ball in the box for our striker, Josef.”
Atlanta (7-5-2, 23 points) returns to action Saturday when it hosts the Chicago Fire at 6 p.m. That matchup will complete a stretch of eight games in 28 days for the Five Stripes.