Mother Nature smiled on Midtown Atlanta ever so briefly but long enough for Atlanta United to defeat Colorado Rapids SC 1-0 on a late Josef Martinez goal under dry skies.
Colorado executed a solid game plan in the first half allowing Atlanta’s frenzied offense a single shot on goal. “Tim Howard did a fantastic job of organizing that backline, managing the game the right way and obviously came up huge on a few saves,” said Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “He had a fantastic performance.”
“I thought we held them out best we could,” said goalkeeper Tim Howard. “We tried to frustrate them. I thought we did and in the end, their talent shined through.
At halftime, United head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino challenged his team in the second half. “The two big points he (Tata) made were to be patient and not to get frustrated,” said Michael Parkhurst. “We talked about upping the tempo. It’s tough to come in here and defend for 90 minutes especially in the heat. We wanted to push the tempo really quickly and try to disorganize them when we could.”
Upping the tempo resulted in seven shots at the goal, three by Miguel Almiron and four by Josef Martinez including his game-winning goal in the 67th minute. Atlanta dominated the possessions putting continuous pressure on the Rapid. Seven of Atlanta’s ten second half attacks in the box occurred in the first 22 minutes.
Howard was tested repeatedly by Almiron and Martinez. A timely left hand from the goalkeeper knocked away a spectacular bicycle kick from Martinez. Eventually, the pressure was too much as Martinez’s left foot delivered the ball to the back of the net.
Holding off the Rapids was no easy task with 5 minutes of stoppage time added to the clock. A last chance header by Bismark Boateng was swallowed up by Alec Kann. “I knew they were going to send everyone into the box except for (Colorado GK Tim) Howard so it was going to be crowded,” said Kann. “Everyone was going to challenge for the ball and I was just trying to get myself between the ball and the goal. Thankfully, he headed it towards me, I got my body behind it, and got the rebound. It hit my forearms and then I got on top of it.”
“The chances that we created early in the first half, I think is what ended up costing us in the end,” said Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “You don’t finish the opportunities that are very clear. You let a team like Atlanta stay in the game and it’s gonna cost you.”
United’s win had the added benefit of the team’s first clean sheet since the March 18th 4-0 victory over the Chicago Fire.
All photos by Jake McDonald, CORE360 Sports