Atlanta United FC continued their push for the Supporters' Shield with a comfortable 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday afternoon, with Miguel Almiron bagging two goals in a match that the visiting Five Stripes dominated from start to finish.
Following a two-week layoff, Gerardo 'Tata' Martino's men looked hungry from the opening whistle, and it took 10 minutes for them to get in front. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez took advantage of the absence of Colorado pressure to carry the ball up the field and play a long diagonal ball to a wide-open Julian Gressel on the right side. Gressel took a few dribbles forward before finding Almiron streaking in on the far post to slam it over a stranded Tim Howard and into the roof of net.
Almiron would bag his and Atlanta's second not long after, when Eric Remedi forced Kellyn Acosta into a turnover that resulted in Josef Martinez getting a one-on-one chance against his defender. Rather than taking it himself, Major League Soccer's new goal king slipped it through to Almiron for a simple finish past Howard.
The visitors made it three before halftime, as Almiron's through ball into the right channel sent Gressel on his way. The German-born midfielder then grabbed his second assist of the game, finding Hector Villalba with a low cross that the Argentine winger guided into the back of the net.
Atlanta again had the ball in the back of the net just a few minutes after halftime, but Gonzalez Pirez was whistled for a foul on Howard after the veteran 'keeper spilled a cross. Villalba would also narrowly miss out on a second after putting a low cross from Gressel narrowly over the bar.
- 10' – ATL – Miguel Almiron
- 18' – ATL – Miguel Almiron
- 37' – ATL – Hector Villalba
- THE BIG PICTURE: Atlanta's win puts them back atop the Supporters' Shield race with a two-point advantage over the New York Red Bulls. The Red Bulls can re-take the lead with a win at D.C. United on Sunday, but Atlanta will still finish the weekend with a higher points-per-game total regardless, having played one game fewer than New York. Also of note in Five Stripes Land: Josef Martinez remains without a goal in the two games he's played since setting the MLS single-season scoring record on August 24 in Orlando. On the other side of the coin, the loss sets Colorado up for potential elimination from the playoff race later on Saturday evening. They will be officially out of contention should there be a winner in the Vancouver-Seattle game, or if the LA Galaxy earn a tie or win at Toronto FC.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: In a match that Atlanta dominated, we'll go with the goal that started it all. The Five Stripes' precise passing was a pleasure to behold, as Gonzalez Pirez took the ball out of defense, played a perfect sweeping ball to Gressel, who in turn served it up on a platter for Almiron. The beautiful move represented Atlanta at their incisive best.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Miguel Almiron bagged the first two goals for Atlanta, both relatively straightforward finishes, and also played a key role in setting up Gressel and Villalba for the third with an excellent through ball. We won't leave this one without also giving Julian Gressel some dap for being a monster on the right flank – he grabbed two assists, and could've easily had more.
- Colorado: September 22 at Columbus 5:30 PM MT)
- Atlanta: September 19 at San Jose (9:00 PM MT | UniMás)