Atlanta United’s Greg Garza had the first clue that teammate Kevin Kratz was about to do something special when he saw him give a fist pump after a foul was called 20 yards from Montreal’s goal on Saturday.
Garza said that distance is almost like a penalty kick for Kratz, who scored from a free kick from that same spot an hour earlier during warm-ups. There was no wall of players nor a goalkeeper during his warm-up routine, but Kratz said he doesn’t focus on those anyway.
So, during the game when there was a wall of opposing players and goalkeeper Evan Bush, Kratz said he kept telling himself to rely on his routine and that all he needed to do was get the ball over the defenders, and then see if Bush could get to the shot.
The ball did and Bush didn’t.
Kratz scored in the 78th minute, just four minutes after coming into the game, and added another goal on a free kick from more than 30 yards in 94th minute to help Atlanta United knock off Montreal 4-1. The win extended the team’s unbeaten streak to seven games. Kratz may get another chance to show off his specialized skill when Atlanta United (6-1-1) plays at Chicago (2-3-2) on Saturday.
“It helped all of us and helped me to be confident when the next free kick is coming up,” he said.
Kratz said he has received hundreds of notes of congratulations in the past few days, including from former teammates and Bayer Leverkusen manager Heiko Herrlich. Kratz played in Leverkusen’s academy.
Kratz said he wasn’t at all disappointed that he didn’t win the MLS player of the week award that was awarded Tuesday. That honor when to teammate Miguel Almiron, who also scored two goals.
“I was only on the field for a few minutes,” he said. “A great story that we we won. I scored two and Miguel scored two. Happy overall for the team and the city.”
The first free kick came down to either Kratz or Almiron.
Kratz said the conversation went like this: He told Almiron he was going to take the kick. Almiron said OK, before asking him if he wanted him to run over the ball or tap it.
Kratz said he doesn’t like to use those tactics during free kicks.
“I like to focus on the ball because the ball is just sitting there,” he said.
There was no conversation before the second. It was all Kratz. Bush thought Kratz may try to put the shot into the upper right corner, so he leaned that way as Kratz struck the ball. Bush didn’t move as Kratz’s shot went into the left corner into almost the same spot as his first free kick.
“He showed that resilience and the courage to do in training as well as games,” Garza said. “It just transferred over, the consistency he has in taking the free kick.
“It was a wonderful spot for him. He knew exactly what he was doing.”