Atlanta United’s (1-1-2) offense looked much better than in any game save the first half of the first leg against Philadelphia. Manager Gabriel Heinze said he felt they should have scored more than one goal on its eight shots. The team finished with 14 shots, five on goal, but still finished with just the one goal. It has scored eight goals in its first eight games.
Atlanta United’s defense looked shaky throughout, which goalkeeper Brad Guzan said was more a result of Atlanta United’s mistakes. Miami could consider itself unlucky that it didn’t score more. It had two calls for handballs against Atlanta United’s defenders turned down. It had a penalty claim against Guzan turned down in the final seconds. It also forced several last-ditch tackles by Atlanta United’s defenders to prevent goal-scoring opportunities. Miami finished with 16 shots, including 14 inside the penalty box, putting six on goal. It had just 38.4% of the possession.
Heinze said he thought the team played much better in the first half but was affected by the temperature (84 degrees at kickoff) and the short recovery time from Tuesday’s game at Philadelphia.
Heinze selected the same 11 that drew with Philadelphia 1-1 in that game. Guzan started in goal with a back line of Anton Walkes, Brooks Lennon, Miles Robinson and George Bello. The midfielders were Santiago Sosa, Emerson Hyndman, Jake Mulraney, Marcelino Moreno and Erik Lopez, with Martinez as the striker in his first start in a league game since sustaining a tear to the ACL in his right knee in last season’s league opener at Nashville. The bench included seven defenders (including goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard) as part of nine players, which meant most of Atlanta United’s field players were going to go 90 in the difficult conditions.
Atlanta United was fortunate in the first few minutes.
First, Miami’s Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who played for Atlanta United in its first three seasons, was left unmarked on a free kick. He put his header just wide in the second minute.
A few minutes later, it appeared that a Miami shot hit Bello’s arm from close range while he was standing in the box. No penalty was given.
But Atlanta United took a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute on Martinez’s first goal this season. The play started with a smart move by Hyndman to create space near the top of the penalty box. He passed it to Martinez, who wasn’t closed down by centerback Ryan Shawcross.
“I just got the ball and wanted to shoot on goal,” Martinez said. “I don’t know if it’s a mistake from the defender. I just wanted to shoot and score.”
Martinez spun and hit a left-footed shot into the lower right corner. He then ran over to trainer Mario Cruz, who worked with Martinez on his rehab, and the two embraced for several seconds.
“Mario and I have suffered a lot,” he said.
It was his first goal in 440 days. It came against Motagau in the Champions League on Feb. 25, 2020.
Atlanta United continued to struggle defending set pieces. Guzan saved a header from Gonzalez Pirez, who was again left unmarked, and then Brek Shea, another former Atlanta United player, put a header over the crossbar from another free kick.
Atlanta United flubbed its next opportunity. Mulraney found Moreno on the left wing. After taking a dribble, he passed it back to Mulraney, who had continued his run and was open in the center of the penalty box. He tried a soft shot into the corner that rolled harmlessly wide.
Atlanta United got lucky again after Sosa inexplicably passed the ball into space to no one about 20 yards from goal. Gonzalo Higuain was the first to it. His shot either sailed over the crossbar or hit Robinson’s arm and went over the crossbar. The referee ruled a corner kick in an odd compromise. Guzan said he thought Robinson got a touch on the shot.
Miami got its equalizer when Sosa failed to pick up Morgan after the man he was marking moved to the outside. Bello moved with Sosa’s man. Sosa was supposed to pick up Morgan. The possession started with an Atlanta United free kick from Alex De John that was hit along the ground to a Miami player to start the counterattack.
Guzan said the goal was a result of the team not being sharp mentally or physically in the second half.
“Second half we turned the ball over necessarily in bad spaces, in bad places,” he said. “Look at the goal, we gifted the ball to them off our free kick.”
In the final seconds, Guzan blocked a shot and then appeared to bring down Victor Ulloa as he raced in to try to be the first to the ball. Referee Joe Dickerson again ruled in Atlanta United’s favor. Miami coach Phil Neville said it was absolutely a penalty.
“If you make the save and your arms are extended and he trips over my arms, that’s not a penalty,” Guzan said.
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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule
April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0
April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1
May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1
May 9 Atlanta United 1, Miami 1
May 15 vs. Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
May 23 at Seattle, 4:30 p.m., Fox
May 29 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
June 20 vs. Philadelphia, 2 p.m., ESPN
June 23 at NYCFC (at Red Bull Arena), TBD, BSSO/BSSE
June 27 vs. New York Red Bulls, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 3 at Chicago, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 8 at Nashville, 8:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 17 vs. New England, 5 p.m., ESPN
July 21 at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., FS1
July 24 vs. Columbus, 3:30 p.m., ABC
July 30 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ESPN
Aug. 4 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 7 at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 15 vs. LAFC, 4 p.m. ESPN
Aug. 18 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 21 at D.C. United, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 28 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., Univision
Sept. 10 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1
Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, B7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Sept. 18 vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m., Univision
Sept. 25 at Philadelphia,3:30 p.m., Univision
Sept. 29 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., FS1
Oct. 2 at Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE
Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE