KENNESAW, Ga. — Two days after Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez was the subject of loan rumors in the Argentine press, he scored the game-winner in Atlanta United’s U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal game against USL Championship side Saint Louis FC.
Pity Martínez opened the scoring in the 52nd minute, and Atlanta advanced with a 2-0 victory at Fifth Third Bank Stadium Wednesday night.
After an Atlanta attack broke down in the final third, Emerson Hyndman won the ball back in Saint Louis’ penalty area. Hyndman laid the ball off for Pity Martínez, who hit a curling chip over goalkeeper Tomás Gómez. Hyndman picked up the assist in his Atlanta debut.
Following the goal, both Pity Martínez and Josef Martínez gestured emphatically toward Gómez, pointing to their wrists. The Saint Louis keeper had been using time-wasting tactics since the 13th minute. Josef Martínez and Gómez exchanged heated words as the teams walked off for halftime.
Substitute Dion Pereira won a penalty at the death, and Josef Martínez converted in the 95th minute to complete the scoring.
The Five Stripes will play a rivalry game against Orlando City SC in the semifinals on Aug. 6 or Aug. 7. The host will be determined via draw Thursday at 2 p.m. Orlando City defeated New York City FC in a penalty shootout Wednesday night.
Pity magic 💫
A beautiful curler leaves them with no chance! pic.twitter.com/2lHxgo45du
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) July 11, 2019
“I thought [Pity Martínez] played a really good game, so I was really happy, of course for him,” manager Frank de Boer said after the win. “He knows he wants to see his level going up, and today he did very good stuff in that.
“It’s great that he scored a goal important for the team, because when you come from Argentina, big club, River Plate, maybe player of the year, you want to show something. Of course there’s pressure, but it’s good that he played this kind of game. I think it will give him a boost of confidence in coming to the level I think he can bring for us.”
Atlanta started on the front foot, as was expected against a USL Championship team. Pity Martínez made a good run into the penalty area and hit a low shot in the fifth minute, but Gómez made a sprawling save. In the 10th minute, El Pity linked up on a nice give-and-go with Josef Martínez, but the Argentine’s first time shot from the center of the area went wide. He should have scored.
A quick throw-in from Pity Martínez sent Josef Martínez through on goal down the right, but the latter hit side netting from a tight angle.
Jul 10, 2019; Kennesaw, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson (12) departs the bus prior to the match against Saint Louis FC at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Meram and Brek Shea routinely rotated left back and left wing positions in the attacking half during the first 20 minutes. The two connected on a few good moves on Atlanta’s left flank, but the play did not lead to any serious danger for Saint Louis.
Atlanta faded as the first half wore on, but Saint Louis had only one real threat to Brad Guzan’s goal. After a needless giveaway resulted in a corner for the visitors, Kyle Greig’s header hit the post. The teams went into the locker room scoreless.
“I think I can be very satisfied with the performance tonight,” de Boer said. ” Maybe the last 15 minutes of the first half we had a little bit of sloppy, stupid passes and they got one or two small chances out of that, but the rest I think we played really concentrated with patience.”
The majority of the second half was played in Saint Louis’ defensive third, with Meram often losing his marks on slick dribbling moves. Meram exited in the 84th minute to chants of his name ringing throughout the stadium. Pity Martínez subbed off to an ovation in the 90th minute.
Hyndman, who started slowly but put forth an impressive second half with darting runs and well-weighted passes, and Eric Remedi both had second-half shots saved, and Darlington Nagbe and Franco Escobar both sent good looks over the bar.
Saint Louis earned three corner kicks in second-half stoppage time and sent Gómez into the attack, but it was unable to convert.
After Atlanta allowed a stoppage-time goal to slip to a draw against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, De Boer was happy with the way his team closed out this game.
“You see the determination to avoid the equalizer in the last minute,” the manager said. “They got three corner kicks and everybody was determined to not concede a goal, and then you get your reward at the end with a penalty.”
Monday afternoon, TyC Sports reported Atlanta was looking for a team to take Pity Martínez on loan, noting de Boer’s recent comments on the player’s work rate. Asked about the news Tuesday, manager de Boer called it “ridiculous.”
In the end against Saint Louis Wednesday, Pity Martínez’s effort was enough.