Atlanta United have beaten the Philadelphia Union to Advance to the Semi-Finals of the MLS playoffs for the 2nd year in a row. The game was both hearts wrenching while somehow amazing at the same time. Martinez has so, so many chances, and it took him until the 80th minute. Atlanta only managed 5 shots on target, yet somehow Martinez missed point-blank several times. He is without a doubt a world-class player at this point. I just knew somehow after he hit the post when anyone would have put 100$ that he finishes that he was not going to miss the next one.
The Five Stripes played like they had to come out with a win. Every player gave every bit of energy they had to bring the team to the next round. Barco had quite a few different blistering runs down the middle of the field, showing how fast he can run past defenders. The German Stud Julian Gressel was the first to open the scoring in the game in the 10th minute. John Champion stole the Proper English adjective “deft” right out of my brain when the German chipped the keeper from about 10 yards out. Hitting the top of the crossbar the ball bounced into the goal. Filthy, and to top it all off the big guy gave a flex followed by a guttural scream of thrill that rivaled any Roman gladiator. Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained?
In the 16th minute, Brad Guzan made a save of epic proportions. When a pass from Gomez gave a point-blank, tie game shot right in front of Aaronson, but Guzan wasn’t having any of that. To top it all off, the poor guy took a shot of the attacker's knee in the worst spot for a man to deal with such a collision, yet he shrugged it off, savage. Brad Guzan has been the Angel in The Goalposts for United during these playoffs. The save he made in the game on Sunday was one of the greatest saves certainly in Mercedes Benz Stadium. The American keeper has yet to be scored on in the playoffs and should be in contention for MVP if Atlanta does win the final.
This game also featured what has to be the top 10 best saves of in MLS history. The Union keeper Andre Blake pulled off a miracle when a shot from Escobar came at him like a rocket, which he somehow parried away. Only to have a half-second to dive to the left to save a very good header from LGP, the point in the game showed toughness in the Union. Then finally, like it was manna from heaven, Martinez got in behind one more time and blitzed the ball into the upper left corner of the net, and Atlanta went crazy.
It’s certainly fair to say Atlanta manned up for this game. They showed the toughness that they needed to beat a very tough Union team. They had to work. It was not something to be enjoyed, it was something to be endured, and Atlanta endured it like a world-class football squad. Soccer has come to the sports town of Atlanta and has become a team European clubs are starting to talk a lot about. Many of the well-known players overseas were known to be watching the game. Atlanta has Toronto next up in this year’s playoff. Atlanta is like a racehorse who has already won The Triple Crown once and then again won the Kentucky Derby the following year. Now we are halfway through the Preakness Stakes in the lead. The Five Stripes seem to be hitting that same stride that helps prepare you for the still tough race ahead. See you in Atlanta Toronto.