September 16, 2017 Atlanta - Atlanta United fans cheer before an MLS soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, September 16, 2017. Saturday’s Atlanta United match against Orlando City will be the third at Mercedes-Benz for the first-year franchise, and a new Major League Soccer single-game attendance record is expected to be set in the latest meeting of the southern MLS rivals. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Atlanta United sets MLS record; draws with Orlando

Atlanta United set a new MLS attendance record and three times fought back behind Josef Martinez to pocket a valuable point in Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Orlando City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The club announced that 70,425 tickets were sold for the game, breaking the league’s previous single-game record of 69,255 set in 1996 at the Rose Bowl in a game between the L.A. Galaxy and N.Y./N.J. MetroStars.

“It is the story in pro sports,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said at halftime. “I’m proud to say that. 

“It’s proving that it’s defying everybody’s expectations as to what soccer can be in this market.”

Two goals from Cyle Larin and another by Dom Dwyer – all on headed shots – offset Martinez’s second hat-trick in as many games and third this season. The Venezuelan has 16 goals in 14 games this season.  He became the third player in league history to score three goals in consecutive games.

The draw gives Atlanta United 43 points as it remains in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The New York Red Bulls, with 41 points, will host Philadelphia on Sunday.

The Five Stripes (12-8-7) were playing their third game in seven days, but didn’t show signs of fatigue. 

It did miss centerback Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, a player who is good in the air but who was forced to miss the game after because of yellow card accumulation.

Orlando City grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute on a headed goal by Dwyer, his first for the Lions since being acquired in a trade from Sporting KC earlier in the summer.

Atlanta United began to increase its pressure, twice hitting the posts with shots in the first half.

Atlanta United broke through in the 37th minute when Julian Gressel chipped a pass across the mouth of the goal for Martinez to tap in. It was Martinez’s 14th goal in 14 games and Gressel’s seventh assist.

Orlando needed less than two minutes to respond with Dwyer heading in another cross, this time from the left side to give the Lions a 2-1 lead. He beat right fullback Anton Walkes for the goal. Scott Sutter was credited with the assist.

Atlanta United tied the game 2-2 on a header by Martinez in the 55th minute off an assist by Chris McCann, who is for the injured Greg Garza.

However, Orlando City needed just three minutes to take a 3-2 lead on another headed goal, this time by Dom Dwyer, who also beat Walkes.

Martinez equalized with a volley off a cross from Hector Villalba in in the 69th minute.

Atlanta United’s backline featured two new starters in Jeff Larentowicz, normally a defensive midfielder but who started at centerback in place of Pirez, and MCann.

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