A goal from Josef Martinez on an assist from Brandon Vazquez lifted Atlanta United to a 1-0 victory over Colorado on Saturday at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. Alec Kann preserved the win with a save of a point-blank header in the game’s final seconds.
After missing on two chances to take a lead in the first half, the Rapids tried a bunkering approach in the second half as Atlanta United came closer and closer to finding the decisive goal.
The Five Stripes broke through in the 67th minute when Vazquez, inserted as a sub just a few minutes previously, cut inside and passed to Martinez. He faked a shot with his right foot, spun and hit a low shot with his left foot into the bottom right corner. It was Martinez’s seventh goal this season for and Vazquez’s first assist.
Atlanta United finishes the first half of the season with a 7-7-3 record, including 5-2-0 at home. It will play at Miami in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday before traveling to Columbus next Saturday. The team will have 10 league games at home in the season’s second half. It will play seven on the road.
Gerardo Martino made two changes to the starting lineup. The familiar face was Martinez, who made his first start in an MLS game since suffering a thigh injury while playing for Venezuela in March. The second change was Anton Walkes in at right fullback in place of Tyrone Mears. It was Walkes’ first start in an MLS game and second this year. The loanee from Tottenham Hotspur previously started at centerhalf in the U.S. Open Cup win against Charleston.
It may have been a combination of the stifling heat and humidity that forced a hydration break at 30 minutes, or the fact that Atlanta United was playing its fifth game in 15 days, but the team lacked its usual home spark in the first half. Miguel Almiron and Martinez, the team’s leading scorers, were hardly involved in the offense. Almiron’s 31 touches were tied for second-fewest on the team, and Martinez’s nine were the fewest.
Colorado did what it could to help. The Rapids were winless in six road games with just two goals scored. Conversely, Atlanta United was 4-2-0 at home with 16 goals scored. Plus, the Rapids were starting three players in defense who had six or less starts this season and one, Dennis Castillo, making his first appearance.
Atlanta United started coming closer and closer to scoring in the second half. Martinez tried a bicycle kick from eight yards out that was stopped by a strong left hand from a diving Tim Howard around the 65th minute.
Atlanta United just missed making it 2-0 in the 85th minute when a cross from Almiron was just missed by a diving Vazquez.
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