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The winner will advance to a two-legged series against either Toronto, the top seed, or NYCFC, the second seed, that starts on Monday or Tuesday.
Under manager Gerardo Martino, Atlanta United scored the second-most goals in the league (70), which was fifth-most in league history, and finished with the second-largest goal difference (plus-30), fourth-best in league history.
Here’s a game-by-game guide to how the Five Stripes became the first MLS expansion team since Seattle in 2009 to advance to the postseason:
New York Red Bulls
0-1-0, 0 points
Atlanta United took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Yamil Asad, the first in team history, only to see Red Bulls score twice in final 14 minutes. Atlanta United’s players weren’t happy to drop points in the opener.
At Minnesota United
1-1-0, 3 points
The snow game! The team’s first win and first hat trick courtesy of Josef Martinez. Miguel Almiron scored two goals and Jacob Peterson added another.
2-1-0, 6 points
Martinez notched two more goals and Hector Villalba scored his first. The Fire were reduced to 10 men in the first half following a red card.
2-1-1, 7 points
A good result considering the team was without Martinez, who suffered an injury while playing for the Venezuelan national team before the game.
2-1-2, 8 points
Villalba scored two goals to offset scores from Sebastian Giovinco and Justin Morrow.
2-2-2, 8 points
A controversial result because Montreal’s first goal came on a penalty kick after Leandro Gonzalez Pirez received a red card that was later rescinded. The second came on a luck redirected shot by Anthony Jackson-Hamel in the final seconds.
At Real Salt Lake
3-2-2, 11 points
The final game in a four-game road stretch, goals from Villalba, Asad and Brandon Vazquez secured the victory.
Vs. D.C. United
3-3-2, 11 points
Atlanta United got off to a torrid start and could have led 5-0 if not for incredible saves by D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Things then quickly fell apart for the team in the first game in which Atlanta United was outplayed for long stretches.
3-4-2, 11 points
Carlos Carmona’s first goal wasn’t enough as NYCFC used scored from David Villa, Rodney Wallace and Maxi Moralez to push Atlanta United to its first losing streak.
3-4-3, 12 points
After being outplayed for most of the past two games, Atlanta United said it was going back to basics and played well in securing a point at Providence Park on Julian Gressel’s first goal.
4-4-3, 15 points
Atlanta United continued its good form with a thrashing led by Almiron’s first hat trick and another goal from Gressel.
5-4-3, 18 points
Almiron poured in two more goals and Villalba added one as Atlanta United posted its second two-game winning streak.
5-5-3, 18 points
The Whitecaps took advantage of its skill at set pieces on two goals from Kendall Waston and one from Fredy Montero to take the win in a game in which outplayed Atlanta United.
5-6-3, 18 points
Martinez returned to the 18 after missing 10 games because of injury but it wasn’t enough to keep Atlanta United from falling on goals from Luis Solignac and Nemanja Nikolic.
6-6-3, 21 points
After two poor performances, Atlanta United bounced back on goals from Villalba, Almiron and Martinez to move eighth in the East to seventh.
At D.C. United
6-7-3, 21 points
The D.C. curse continued at RFK Stadium as goals from Luciano Acosta and Patrick Nyarko offset another from Gressel.
7-7-3, 24 points
A lone goal from Martinez pushed Atlanta United past the Rapids and into sixth in the Eastern Conference.
8-7-3, 27 points
Two goals from Villalba, one on an assist from goalkeeper Alec Kann, helped Atlanta United to the win. Kann sustained an injury in the game.
Vs. San Jose
9-7-3, 30 points
One of the most exciting games of the season saw Atlanta United rally on goals from Carmona, Martinez and Anton Walkes to move into fourth in the East.
At Orlando City
10-7-3, 33 points
A game that may be known more for a billboard bought by Atlanta United in downtown Orlando instead of Villalba’s winner in the 86th minute.
Vs. Orlando City
10-7-4, 34 points
The two teams met again a week and another goal from Villalba, this one in the 92nd minute, secured the draw.
At Sporting KC
10-7-5, 35 points
Atlanta United’s penchant for scoring late continued when Peterson poked in a goal in the 91st minute to earn the draw and valuable point.
At D.C. United
10-8-5, 35 points
A season sweep was secured on an own-goal charged to Michael Parkhurst. The loss dropped Atlanta United into seventh in the East and temporarily out of a playoff spot.
10-8-6, 36 points
Mears’ first goal on a looping header in the 91st minute salvaged a draw and pushed Atlanta United into a tie for sixth.
11-8-6, 39 points
Atlanta United’s first game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium saw goals from Gonzalez Pirez, Martinez and Greg Garza secure the win in the first of a stretch of eight games in 24 days.
Vs. New England
12-8-6, 42 points
Antoher hat trick from Martinez along with goals from Walkes, Kevin Kratz, Asad and Villalba, combined with a defense that didn’t allow a shot (a first in league history), pushed Atlanta United into fifth in the East.
Vs. Orlando City
12-8-7, 43 points
Martinez’s third hat trick and second in as many games helped Atlanta United earn a point and stay in fifth in the East.
Vs. L.A. Galaxy
13-8-7, 46 points
A goal from Martinez, two from Asad and one from Almiron pushed Atlanta United into fourth in the East.
14-8-7, 49 points
A goal from Villalba and Jeff Larentowicz’s first lifted Atlanta United into third in the East. Almiron suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of the win.
15-8-7, 52 points
Gressel, Martinez and Peterson scored in the first game without Almiron to keep the Five Stripes in third and secure a spot in the playoffs.
At New England
15-8-8, 53 points
Atlanta United posted its fourth consecutive shutout and sixth in seven games.
Vs. Minnesota United
15-9-8, 53 points
The Loons became the first team to beat Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium by scoring two goals in the final six minutes. Villalba and Gressel scored for Atlanta United, which played part of the second half with just 10 men after goalkeeper Kyle Reynish received a red card.
At New York Red Bulls
15-9-9, 54 points
Both teams had several chances to score but neither could as Atlanta United stayed within striking distance of second in the East.
15-9-10, 55 points
With the Decision Day’s other results going their way, Atlanta United took a 2-1 lead on goals by Asad and Martinez, only to see a Sebastian Giovinco free kick kiss the underside of the crossbar and drop in with just a few minutes remaining. The draw put Atlanta United into fourth place in the East.