How did Atlanta United reach the MLS playoffs?

Atlanta United will host Columbus on Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the first round of the MLS playoffs. The game will be televised by ESPN2.

The winner will advance to a two-legged series against either Toronto, the top seed, or NYCFC, the second seed, that starts on Monday or Tuesday. 

Under manager Gerardo Martino, Atlanta United scored the second-most goals in the league (70), which was fifth-most in league history, and finished with the second-largest goal difference (plus-30), fourth-best in league history. 

Here’s a game-by-game guide to how the Five Stripes became the first MLS expansion team since Seattle in 2009 to advance to the postseason: 

New York Red Bulls 

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2-1 loss 

0-1-0, 0 points

March 5 

Atlanta United took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Yamil Asad, the first in team history, only to see Red Bulls score twice in final 14 minutes. Atlanta United’s players weren’t happy to drop points in the opener.

At Minnesota United 

6-1 win 

1-1-0, 3 points

March 12 

The snow game! The team’s first win and first hat trick courtesy of Josef Martinez. Miguel Almiron scored two goals and Jacob Peterson added another. 


4-0 win 

2-1-0, 6 points

March 18 

Martinez notched two more goals and Hector Villalba scored his first. The Fire were reduced to 10 men in the first half following a red card. 

At Seattle 

0-0 Draw 

2-1-1, 7 points

March 31 

A good result considering the team was without Martinez, who suffered an injury while playing for the Venezuelan national team before the game. 

At Toronto 

2-2 draw 

April 8 

2-1-2, 8 points

Villalba scored two goals to offset scores from Sebastian Giovinco and Justin Morrow. 

At Montreal 

2-1 loss 

2-2-2, 8 points

April 15 

A controversial result because Montreal’s first goal came on a penalty kick after Leandro Gonzalez Pirez received a red card that was later rescinded. The second came on a luck redirected shot by Anthony Jackson-Hamel in the final seconds. 

At Real Salt Lake 

3-1 win 

3-2-2, 11 points

April 22 

The final game in a four-game road stretch, goals from Villalba, Asad and Brandon Vazquez secured the victory. 

Vs. D.C. United 

3-1 loss 

3-3-2, 11 points

April 30 

Atlanta United got off to a torrid start and could have led 5-0 if not for incredible saves by D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Things then quickly fell apart for the team in the first game in which Atlanta United was outplayed for long stretches. 


3-1 loss 

3-4-2, 11 points

May 7 

Carlos Carmona’s first goal wasn’t enough as NYCFC used scored from David Villa, Rodney Wallace and Maxi Moralez to push Atlanta United to its first losing streak. 

At Portland 

1-1 draw 

3-4-3, 12 points

May 14 

After being outplayed for most of the past two games, Atlanta United said it was going back to basics and played well in securing a point at Providence Park on Julian Gressel’s first goal. 

Vs. Houston 

4-1 win 

4-4-3, 15 points

May 20 

Atlanta United continued its good form with a thrashing led by Almiron’s first hat trick and another goal from Gressel. 


3-1 win 

5-4-3, 18 points

May 28 

Almiron poured in two more goals and Villalba added one as Atlanta United posted its second two-game winning streak. 

At Vancouver 

3-1 loss 

5-5-3, 18 points

June 3 

The Whitecaps took advantage of its skill at set pieces on two goals from Kendall Waston and one from Fredy Montero to take the win in a game in which outplayed Atlanta United. 

At Chicago 

2-0 loss 

5-6-3, 18 points

June 10 

Martinez returned to the 18 after missing 10 games because of injury but it wasn’t enough to keep Atlanta United from falling on goals from Luis Solignac and Nemanja Nikolic. 

Vs. Columbus 

3-1 win 

6-6-3, 21 points

June 17 

After two poor performances, Atlanta United bounced back on goals from Villalba, Almiron and Martinez to move eighth in the East to seventh. 

At D.C. United 

2-1 loss 

6-7-3, 21 points

June 21 

The D.C. curse continued at RFK Stadium as goals from Luciano Acosta and Patrick Nyarko offset another from Gressel. 

Vs. Colorado 

1-0 win 

7-7-3, 24 points

June 24 

A lone goal from Martinez pushed Atlanta United past the Rapids and into sixth in the Eastern Conference. 

At Columbus 

2-0 win 

8-7-3, 27 points

July 1 

Two goals from Villalba, one on an assist from goalkeeper Alec Kann, helped Atlanta United to the win. Kann sustained an injury in the game. 

Vs. San Jose 

4-2 win 

9-7-3, 30 points

July 4 

One of the most exciting games of the season saw Atlanta United rally on goals from Carmona, Martinez and Anton Walkes to move into fourth in the East. 

At Orlando City 

1-0 win 

10-7-3, 33 points

July 21 

A game that may be known more for a billboard bought by Atlanta United in downtown Orlando instead of Villalba’s winner in the 86th minute. 

Vs. Orlando City 

1-1 draw 

10-7-4, 34 points

July 29 

The two teams met again a week and another goal from Villalba, this one in the 92nd minute, secured the draw. 

At Sporting KC 

1-1 draw 

10-7-5, 35 points

August 6 

Atlanta United’s penchant for scoring late continued when Peterson poked in a goal in the 91st minute to earn the draw and valuable point. 

At D.C. United 

1-0 loss 

10-8-5, 35 points

August 23 

A season sweep was secured on an own-goal charged to Michael Parkhurst. The loss dropped Atlanta United into seventh in the East and temporarily out of a playoff spot. 

At Philadelphia 

2-2 draw 

10-8-6, 36 points

August 26 

Mears’ first goal on a looping header in the 91st minute salvaged a draw and pushed Atlanta United into a tie for sixth. 

Vs. Dallas 

3-0 win 

11-8-6, 39 points

Sept. 10 

Atlanta United’s first game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium saw goals from Gonzalez Pirez, Martinez and Greg Garza secure the win in the first of a stretch of eight games in 24 days. 

Vs. New England 

7-0 win 

12-8-6, 42 points

Sept. 13 

Antoher hat trick from Martinez along with goals from Walkes, Kevin Kratz, Asad and Villalba, combined with a defense that didn’t allow a shot (a first in league history), pushed Atlanta United into fifth in the East. 

Vs. Orlando City 

3-3 draw 

12-8-7, 43 points

Sept. 16 

Martinez’s third hat trick and second in as many games helped Atlanta United earn a point and stay in fifth in the East. 

Vs. L.A. Galaxy 

4-0 win 

13-8-7, 46 points

Sept. 24 

A goal from Martinez, two from Asad and one from Almiron pushed Atlanta United into fourth in the East. 

Vs. Montreal 

2-0 win 

14-8-7, 49 points

Sept. 24 

A goal from Villalba and Jeff Larentowicz’s first lifted Atlanta United into third in the East. Almiron suffered a hamstring injury in the first half of the win. 

Vs. Philadelphia 

3-0 win 

15-8-7, 52 points

Sept. 27 

Gressel, Martinez and Peterson scored in the first game without Almiron to keep the Five Stripes in third and secure a spot in the playoffs. 

At New England 

0-0 draw 

15-8-8, 53 points

Sept. 30 

Atlanta United posted its fourth consecutive shutout and sixth in seven games. 

Vs. Minnesota United 

3-2 loss 

15-9-8, 53 points

Oct. 3 

The Loons became the first team to beat Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium by scoring two goals in the final six minutes. Villalba and Gressel scored for Atlanta United, which played part of the second half with just 10 men after goalkeeper Kyle Reynish received a red card. 

At New York Red Bulls 

0-0 draw 

15-9-9, 54 points

Oct. 15 

Both teams had several chances to score but neither could as Atlanta United stayed within striking distance of second in the East. 

Vs. Toronto 

2-2 draw 

15-9-10, 55 points

Oct. 22. 

With the Decision Day’s other results going their way, Atlanta United took a 2-1 lead on goals by Asad and Martinez, only to see a Sebastian Giovinco free kick kiss the underside of the crossbar and drop in with just a few minutes remaining. The draw put Atlanta United into fourth place in the East.

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