It was only Atlanta United’s second game of the preseason, but the team looked in midseason form, scoring four goals in the first half of an easy 4-0 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday at IMG Academy.
Scorers were Josef Martinez, followed by an own goal forced by Jake Mulraney, with Pity Martinez bagging a brace.
On defense, goalkeeper Brad Guzan saved the only shot on goal. All stats are unofficial because it was a scrimmage.
Manager Frank de Boer was very pleased with the defense, which was a focus, and the offense, which he said Tuesday was going to be done mostly by the players’ instincts.
“I think we could have scored more,” he said. “What we gave away, I think nothing. We played with a lot of creativity. There were some beautiful combinations that ended up with a goal or just missed. I said halftime, it was fun to watch from outside. It must be the same feeling you have inside.”
The starting 11 may be what the team uses in its Champions League opener against Motagua in Honduras on Feb. 18: goalkeeper Guzan, centerbacks Franco Escobar, Miles Robinson and Fernando Meza, right wingback Brooks Lennon and left wingback Mulraney, defensive midfielder Eric Remedi, central midfielder Emerson Hyndman in the role held the previous two seasons by Darlington Nagbe, with Pity Martinez, Ezequiel Barco and Josef Martinez as the attackers.
It took Atlanta United less than 30 seconds to jump on the Union, which included several players who are still working on their fitness.
Atlanta United spent the days before Wednesday’s scrimmage working on its press, specifically when to do it in groups.
In the first minute, Barco’s pressure created a turnover that Pity Martinez jumped on, passing it to Hyndman who passed it to Josef Martinez near the center of the penalty box resulted in an easy goal and 1-0 lead.
“We worked on that the day before and through the week,” Hyndman said. “It was good to see that in effect. It was great to start like that.”
In the fifth minute, Hyndman turned with the ball and hit a long diagonal across the field to Mulraney, who had yards of space in front of him. He took off down the wing. His cross was hit low and with pace, forcing an own goal by Aurelien Collin.
After a series of good passes in the 11th minute, Pity Martinez’s shot was cleared off the line for a corner kick.
In the 21st minute, Lennon blew past Collin down the right wing to catch up to a long pass. His cross to Josef Martinez was perfect. His left-footed half-volley flew inches to the outside of the post.
Pity Martinez got his first goal in the 37th minute when he was played through by Remedi. Martinez buried the left-footed shot into the lower right corner.
Martinez’s second goal came in the 45th minute from a pass from Josef Martinez, who picked up a loose ball after a shot by Lennon was saved.
Lennon said he has been trying to build chemistry with Josef Martinez so that he can put the ball in dangerous positions for him.
The rest of the game was very choppy.
Jeff Larentowicz, George Bello, George Campbell, Edgar Castillo, Adam Jahn, Phillip Goodrum, Laurence Wyke and Will Reilly saw minutes in the second half.
Atlanta United’s preseason friendlies will continue Saturday with a match against Swedish club IF Elfsborg at IMG Academy. It will face Birmingham Legion on Feb. 8 in Birmingham, Ala.
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