Atlanta United hosted Chicago in an MLS game on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Atlanta United)

Martinez carries Atlanta United past Chicago

Josef Martinez keeps scoring, and Atlanta United keeps winning.

Martinez scored two goals to increase his season total to 10 and carry Atlanta United to a 2-0 victory over Chicago on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The goals were his fourth and fifth in the past three games and marked the 15th time the reigning MVP has scored at least two goals in an MLS game.

Saturday’s victory increased the team’s points total to 26 (8-5-2) and into a possible temporary tie for first in the East, depending upon Saturday’s and Sunday’s other results. 

“The goals are coming and we are back on top of the table so for that we are happy,” Martinez said.

The shutout was the team’s eighth this season, matching last season’s total. The team held Chicago to three shots on goal.

“We are pretty organized at the moment, so it’s pretty nice,” Atlanta United’s Miles Robinson said.

The game was the eighth and last played in a 28-day stretch during which Atlanta United went 6-2-0. The team won’t play again until it travels to Charleston for a U.S. Open Cup game June 11. Its next league game will come June 26 at Toronto. 

The players will take five days off before they are to report back for training.

“We’ve talked a lot the last couple of weeks about the stress we’ve had with a lot of games,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said. “You saw during the game that people were really tired. Normally you want to continue in this rhythm but they need a break.”

De Boer selected the same starters that he selected in Wednesday’s 3-0 win against Minnesota.

If it isn’t broke…

Atlanta United took a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute when Pity Martinez and Franco Escobar combined down the right with two nice passes near the top of the penalty box. Pity Martinez then played Josef Martinez toward goal with a delicate pass that split Chicago’s centerbacks. Josef Martinez took a touch before sending a low shot past Kenneth Kronholm. It was the second assist this season for Pity Martinez as well as for Escobar.

“(Pity) worked really hard, he won his duels most of the time, he was creative...he did a really good job today,” de Boer said.

Chicago came close to an equalizer in the 35th minute, but Francisco Calvo missed a tough header from just a few yards in front of Brad Guzan. The play started with a foul and yellow card to Escobar following a tough tackle of Aleksandar Katai on the edge of the penalty box. Nicolas Gaitan took the free kick and put the ball just over the scrum of Atlanta United and Chicago players 10 yards from goal to Calvo, who was near the back post. 

A minute after Pity Martinez forced a diving save from Kronholm, Josef Martinez finished a 40-yard run with a right-footed shot from 19 yards to give Atlanta United a 2-0 lead in the 43rd minute. Dion Pereira was given the assist, his first this season.

More than 67,000 tickets were sold and distributed Saturday, with some of the people arriving to the stadium three hours early to watch the 3 p.m. Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur as it was telecast on the stadium’s halo board.


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