Though there are reasons to explain their domination in the preseason, Atlanta United posted its second consecutive big win with a 6-1 victory over a Tijuana side composed mostly of reserves Wednesday at Cal State-Fullerton.
The victory came a few days after the Five Stripes defeated Seattle 7-1.
“We were ahead of Seattle in terms of preparation, and we played a younger side today,” captain Michael Parkhurst said. “Still, you have to go out and execute, take the game seriously and find the back of the net. We’ve been doing that. That’s good for the group. Gives us good confidence.”
Reigning league MVP Josef Martinez scored four goals, giving him seven in the first two games, and two assists. Pity Martinez added two assists, and Ezequiel Barco added a goal and an assist on a beautiful day in southern California.
Atlanta United will next play LAFC on Sunday and L.A. Galaxy on Feb. 13. Atlanta United’s season will begin with CONCACAF Champions League play at Herediano in Costa Rica on Feb. 21.
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“I think these games in the preseason are going to serve us well,” Josef Martinez said.
Atlanta United actually played two scrimmages Tuesday. In the first, a team composed mostly of reserves defeated Cal State-Fullerton 1-0 on a goal from Romario Williams. Each game was composed of 40-minute halves.
Not available for selection for either game were defender Franco Escobar (shoulder injury), defender Chris McCann (undisclosed injury), midfielder Chris Goslin (left knee strain), midfielder Kevin Kratz (undisclosed injury). Fullback Jose Hernandez and strikers Lagos Kunga and Patrick Okonkwo, who were sent to train with Atlanta United 2 in Atlanta.
Manger Frank De Boer chose a strong starting 11 and 3-5-2 formation for the game against Tijuana: goalkeeper Brad Guzan, left wingback Brek Shea, centerbacks Parkhurst, Miles Robinson, who played well, and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, right wingback Julian Gressel, center midfielders Eric Remedi and Jeff Larentowicz, attacking midfielders Barco, who also played well, and Hector Villalba and striker Josef Martinez.
Atlanta United grabbed a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute on a goal from Martinez from an assist by Barco in a fashion reminiscent of many Atlanta United’s goals in its first two seasons.
Barco started the play by forcing a turnover in the final third. He and Martinez played the ball back and forth as they moved down the field until Martinez was left with a tap-in.
Martinez scored in the 16th minute to give Atlanta United a 2-0 lead. The goal was assisted by Villalba. The play started with a mistake by Tijuana goalkeeper Luis Michel, who came 20 yards from his goal to try to head a pass from midfield. The header went right to Martinez, who passed it to Villalba who passed it back. Martinez needed only to put the shot on frame to score.
Villalba scored in the 20th minute to give Atlanta United a 3-0 lead, and it came from another lightning counterattack. Martinez assisted on the goal, which started with Villalba intercepting a pass in the center of the field about 40 yards from goal. He played Martinez down the right. He cut inside his defender and hit a short pass to Villalba for the one-timed shot from the center of the penalty box.
Tijuana cut Atlanta United’s lead to 3-1 in the 27th minute on a goal from Erick Torres, formerly of Houston. Tijuana switched the field from left to the right, which created seams in Atlanta United’s defense. Oswaldo Tona took down the long pass near the corner of the 18-yard box with a nice touch before playing the ball across the goal for Torres to tap in.
Martinez completed his hat trick with a goal in the 43rd minute from a Pity Martinez assist. Passes criss-crossed the mouth of the goal until Josef Martinez slammed a shot into the roof of the net for a 4-1 lead.
Barco scored in the 52nd minute to give Atlanta United a 5-1 lead. Martinez assisted on the goal, which started with Barco making a decisive run down the middle of the field. He passed it to Martinez, who dribbled back to his left before playing it to his right to Barco to shoot from six yards out.
Martinez scored his fourth in the 68th minute with a header from a free kick by Pity Martinez. Barco won a foul in the left corner. Pity Martinez his a low, hard cross that Josef Martinez met for an easy header and 6-1 lead.
“Very satisfied by their performance,” de Boer said. “You can say we scored six goals again, but how we want to play for me is more important. We did that again very well.”
For the first scrimmage, de Boer’s starting 11 was goalkeeper Brendan Moore, centerbacks Jon Gallagher, Kendall Edwards and Mikey Ambrose, wingbacks Gordon Wild and George Bello, midfielders Darlington Nagbe, Amir Bashti, Andrew Carleton and Brandon Vazquez and Williams.
After a scoreless first half that included several missed chances, de Boer at halftime subbed in Anderson Asiedu for Nagbe, moved Bello to centerback and took out Gallagher, and put Deon Pereira in at left wingback. Villalba also came on for Vazquez.
Atlanta United broke through in the 42nd minute with a goal from Williams off an assist from Carleton.