A header by Anton Walkes and a second goal from Josef Martinez completed a raucous seesaw comeback by the Five Stripes over the San Jose Earthquakes.
To say the first half was chippy would be a gross understatement. Atlanta was handed three yellow cards and San Jose 4 including two for Kofi Sarkodie that led to his dismissal in the 32nd minute.
The Quakes played the rest of the half a man down but with a 1-0 lead thanks to an early goal by Tommy Thompson. It was Thompson’s first career goal albeit in a losing effort. “I would have hoped to get my first one in a game that our team won, but to get the monkey off my back feels good.”
David Bingham did a solid job tending goal for the Quakes. With a man down, Bingham still managed to deny three attempts from United. “When we went up a man in the first half, we were too anxious to get forward right away,” said United defender Michael Parkhurst. “There was no circulation of the ball and it was just route one, get it and go to goal as fast as we could.”
Would Bingham be able to sustain it for another 45 minutes against the relentless offensive pressure Atlanta has become known for was the question. For the second consecutive week, Atlanta United head coach Tata Martino preached patience in the locker room at the half. “I told them to try to find the rhythm of the game and not to argue with other players or with the ref,” said Martino.
Martino instructed his team to move the ball back and forth across the pitch to open up the defense. Going against a tall back line that averaged over 6 feet and voluminous space-eater Victor Bernandez. The veteran from Honduras is listed at 6’2” and a clearly historic 211 lbs. Benandez was easily 235 lbs and could quite possibly play linebacker for the 49ers in a pinch. Their height and size allowed them to get to balls lofted by United in the first half.
Following Tata’s instructions, Atlanta dominated possession early on. Ten minutes into the new half, Greg Garza sent a cross that Josef Martinez attempted convert with a header. Bingham blocked the shot sending it directly in front of Carlos Carmona. The Chilean-native rocketed the shot to the back of the net to bring the game level.
Ten minutes after Carmona’s first goal at home, Garza and Martinez connected again. This time the red and black’s leading scorer would not be denied sending the header over the head and out of the reach of Bingham.
Before the smoke cleared from the red and black’s celebration, the Quakes struck back. The franchise’s all-time leading scorer Chris Wondolowski banged a long cross from Nick Lima inside the near post and over the head of Atlanta goalkeeper Kyle Reynish. Reynish was starting in place of the injured Alec Kann who suffered an injury to his quadriceps muscle last week.
Reynish attributed the goal to a lack of focus. “I think it’s tough,” said the United goalkeeper. “You get so up in the moment you finally pull one back and take the lead and finally capitalized on being a man up and I think everyone kind of switches off for a split second, including myself and that is all it takes.”
The tie didn’t last long. Fifteen minutes to be exact. On the set piece, Julian Gressel delivered a spectacular ball through the box that Anton Walkes headed into the net. “It was a great ball in from Julian, from what I can remember, and I was just lucky enough to get that contact on it,” said the 20-year old from England.
There was no lapse in the team’s focus after Walkes goal. Atlanta kept the pressure on and it paid off. Martinez slotted a shot inside the left post for the crucial two-goal differential with one minute remaining.
United’s win lifts them farther above the red line just as the team heads off for a two week break. They will face Orlando City on the road when they return to action.