Though they learned how to do so differently, Gerardo Martino and Mexico know how to win in Atlanta and that continued with Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Venezuela at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Mexico improved to 6-0-1 in Atlanta on goals from Roberto Alvarado, Rodolfo Pizarro and Andres Guardado. Martino, named El Tri’s manager in January, won his 28th game as a manager in the city. Of course, 27 of those wins, including the MLS Cup, came when he managed Atlanta United, a job he held until last December.
One of the biggest cheers from the announced attendance of 51,834 happened before the game when Josef Martinez, a striker for Atlanta United and Venezuela, walked over and gave Martino a hug just before the game started. Martinez has credited Martino with helping him become the MLS MVP last season.
“Being in Atlanta makes me happy, going to the training site makes me happy, being at the stadium makes me happy,” Martino said. “I spent two wonderful years here. I had a good time while I was here these two days and will continue to have a good time the next two days that I’m going to be here. It makes me happy to see the players, including of course, Josef Martinez.”
Martinez, who politely declined to speak after the game, didn’t start for Venezuela but did come on to begin the second half with the game tied at 1.
But it was Mexico that struck first in the second half when Pizarro touched in a cross by Jesus Gallardo in the 54th minute to give his team a 2-1 lead. The counterattack by Mexico looked very much like those that Atlanta United used when Martino was its manager. The team came out of its own half with three players down the left side against just one Venezuela defender. Gallardo’s first cross was blocked. The ball came back to him and he hit a simple pass across the goal to Pizarro.
Guardado, who several years ago was rumored to be of interest to Atlanta United, made it 3-1 with a cleanly hit left-footed shot into the lower right corner in the 74th minute.
The first half featured one great goal and one fortunate goal.
Though Mexico dominated possession, Venezuela took a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute on a wonder strike by Jhon Murillo. In one of the first times Venezuela was able to maintain possession, Murillo lined up what looked to be a cross some 30 yards from goal and closer to the sideline than the penalty box. No Mexico defender came to close him down, so Murillo hit a right-footed shot that floated over goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco, who never moved, kissed the underside of the crossbar and settled into the left side of the goal. It was Murillo’s fourth goal in his 20th appearance for the national team.
Mexico tied the game in the 32nd minute on a goal from Alvarado, who pounced on a loose ball in the penalty box to hammer a left-footed shot from 8 yards. It was the Cruz Azul player’s second goal in his sixth appearance.
Martino improved to 3-0 as Mexico’s manager. Mexico will play Ecuador on Sunday in Dallas in its final tune-up before the Gold Cup begins on June 15 against Cuba in Pasadena Calf. Mexico’s group stage games will continue against Canada on June 19 in Denver and Martinique on June 23 in Charlotte, N.C.
At least 50,000 tickets have been sold or distributed for each of Mexico’s seven games in Atlanta. The most (70,511) came at the Georgia Dome for a Gold Cup doubleheader that also featured the U.S. men’s national team.
Asked if Mercedes-Benz Stadium should be prioritized as a host site for World Cup 2026, Martino said: “Without a doubt. What Atlanta United has caused in just two years, it should be considered. What the fans and what the city have produced each weekend, I think the city should be considered. For the big quantity of Mexicans who were here, I have no doubt it should be considered. And, if on top of that, Mexico plays here, it’s a bigger reason.”