Atlanta United completes two important rallies

The Five Stripes stormed back to earn a 4-3 win against the Earthquakes for an MLS record 10th road win Wednesday.

Atlanta United’s present and future weren’t looking as great at 12:35 a.m. Thursday as they did before 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Around that time Wednesday an ESPN reporter said that Gerardo Martino wasn’t going to exercise the option on his contract and would leave as manager of the the club at season’s end.

By Waffle House-run time Thursday morning, it appeared that Martino and his team were about to fall behind San Jose, the worst team in MLS and playing their first game under an interim manager, 4-1 at Avaya Stadium.

And then Atlanta United rallied … twice.

First, Video Assistant Referee and replay took away San Jose's fourth goal because of a handball that happened in the Earthquakes' box on the other end of the field earlier in the sequence. A 4-1 lead was correctly reduced to 3-1. As boos from the more than 15,000 in attendance echoed around the stadium – or it could have been noise from the airplanes coming and going from across the street -- Josef Martinez converted the penalty to cut San Jose's lead to 3-2.

“As soon as that goes in, we get the feeling we’re destined to get at least a point out of this game,” captain Michael Parkhurst said.


Atlanta United did more than that. A goal from Miguel Almiron and another by Martinez – his record-extending 30th this season – in the fifth minute of six minutes of stoppage time gave Atlanta United a 4-3 win and its league-leading 60th point this season.

And then, as equipment managers feverishly worked to get the team packed and onto a bus to take them to their charter plane, Martino implied that the ESPN report was wrong by saying that his status hasn't changed, questioning the source, and that, in fact, he was reviewing a proposal from Atlanta United to continue as coach.

“It’s something we are going to analyze very seriously and take our time deciding,” he said.

Atlanta United supporters who were bemoaning the team’s future got a little crazy on social media after both results.

But, in fact, there are still things to worry about.

First, Atlanta United didn’t play well. At all. On offense, the team lost its shape going forward. On defense, the players made all sorts of mistakes throughout the night, errors that can’t be made when it hosts Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“We’re able to fight back and get the comeback, but if we would have played like that against a team that is fighting on top of the table, I think we could have lost this game by a few goals,” Martino said. “There are some things to work on.”

The other thing to worry about is that just because Martino has a proposal from Atlanta United, it doesn't mean that he's going to accept it. Martino, 55, has managed only one club longer than three years. He's about to start his third season at Atlanta United after he was introduced Sept. 27, 2016.

“I don’t want to take anything away from the team because we have a lot of things to play for this year and we are focused on that,” he said Wednesday.

Along with earning the three points and increasing its lead on New York Red Bulls in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, Atlanta United showed a grit that may be needed in the playoffs. The Five Stripes locked up at least one home playoff game with Wednesday’s result.

“The mentality of the team was really strong,” Parkhurst said. “There was no quit. We just kept going. It wasn’t our night defensively. We had a lot of mistakes, gave us some goals, but we hung in there and three points is three points.”

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