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Atlanta, Ga– Atlanta United squared off against Toronto FC Sunday for the second time this year in a vibrant Mercedes-Benz Stadium that held 71,874 energized fans in the last game of the inaugural season. The final score of the match was identical to the first game between the two clubs (April 8) which resulted in a 2-2 draw.
Fortunately for the “Five Stripes”, they have secured the fourth seed in the eastern conference and will host the Columbus Crew later this week in an elimination game. Head coach Tata Martino credited the toughness of Toronto and said that this was an excellent opponent for his team to face heading into the playoffs.
“Yeah, it was good preparation because Toronto is the best team in the league,” Martino said through a translator. “But at the same time, we wanted to win the game that’s what we tried to do and I think we were very close, we had some chances but Toronto is a good preparation but we had other ideas in mind.”
The intensity was high between both teams for 90 minutes and neither club wanted to accept defeat as they both traded goals for the duration of the game.
Atlanta United scored the game’s first goal in the 31’ when Yamil Asad lasered in a PK shot due to a hand-ball violation by Toronto to give his team a 1-0 lead. Ironically, Asad also scored the first goal in Atlanta United history against the New York Red Bulls at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Toronto was able to get one of their premier scores involved as Jozy Altidore outplayed a United defender to score in the 60’ on an assist by defender Drew Moor to even the score at 1-1.
In a crucial game for the Five Stripes, their most coveted player, Josef Martinez, reinvigorated the Atlanta crowd when he scored in the 74’ on an assist by forward Hector Villalba and midfielder Miguel Almiron to push the lead to 2-1.
Nevertheless, Toronto responded with the last goal of the game in the 83’ by Sebastian Giovinco to silence the crowd and ultimately end the game in a draw.
Atlanta United will now turn their attention to a Columbus Crew team that they have faced twice this season and come away victorious in both matches. However, United isn’t overlooking this team by any means.
“It’s a whole new mini-season for us, the playoffs are a completely different beast,” goal keeper Brad Guzan said to reporters regarding how they are mentally preparing for their matchup with Columbus. “[Playoff] Games are tighter. Games are a lot closer, the regular season goes out the window, everyone starts at scratch and like I said, everyone will be ready come that first playoff game.”
Atlanta United will play Columbus Crew Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.