Atlanta United picked up what may be the most important result of their season with a 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Both sides went into the match desperate to pick up all three points to boost their chances of making the MLS Cup Playoffs – Atlanta nursing a run of just three wins in their last 17 MLS matches and the Sounders losing four of their last six.
After some closely fought opening exchanges, it was Atlanta United who took the lead, with Mexican forward Ronaldo Cisneros’ effort taking a huge deflection off Nouhou Tolo to go into the net after some great work down the left flank by Caleb Wiley and Luiz Araujo.
Seattle recovered well and almost equalized in the 32nd minute, but goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo was able to tip Jordan Morris’ diving header onto the post.
For the next 20 minutes either side of half-time, the Five Stripes dominated, with Thiago Almada and Araujo both seeing efforts saved by Sounders ‘keeper Stefan Frei.
But as the second half wore on, Seattle grew in confidence and finally grabbed a well-deserved equalizer in the 68th minute when Cristian Roldan fired home inside the box after seeing his initial effort blocked by Franco Ibarra – who cheaply gave away the ball in the build-up.
For a long while, it looked like the Sounders would go all the way and snatch the win, piling pressure on the hosts. But it was Atlanta United who took all three points thanks to substitute Andrew Gutman’s incredible strike from distance deep into second-half added time.
It was pandemonium in the stands as the Five Stripes took a vital victory that moves them to within a point of the MLS Cup Playoffs – at least for a few hours.
Here are the full player ratings from a dramatic afternoon in Atlanta:
GK: Rocco Rios Novo – 7/10 – Could do nothing about the goal. Made a couple of important saves.
RB: Aiden McFadden – 5/10 – A little too safe on the ball and looked lost at times, but kept at it and worked hard.
CB: Alan Franco – 8/10 – Clean on the ball and came up with some important defensive contributions.
CB: Juan Jose Purata – 8/10 – Is already Atlanta United’s best center-back. Just cruises through the match with excellent composure.
LB: Caleb Wiley – 7/10 – A couple of careless giveaways early on but recovered well and was important in the opening goal.
CM: Santiago Sosa – 6/10 – Another solid effort from Sosa on both sides of the ball. Regaining fitness.
CM: Matheus Rossetto – 6/10 – Was having a good game on the ball before being forced out with an ankle injury just before half-time.
RW: Ronaldo Cisneros – 7/10 – Scored the all-important opening goal and provided good energy down the right flank.
CAM: Thiago Almada – 8/10 – Wasn’t Almada’s most effective game, but still had plenty of lively moments and always looked to create. Has set a high standard.
LW: Luiz Araujo – 8/10 – Atlanta United’s most threatening attacker, assisting Cisneros’ goal and nearly scoring one himself. 100% success with his dribbles.
ST: Josef Martinez – 4/10 – Was uncharacteristically sloppy on the ball and far too isolated. Shut down by the Seattle defense.
SUB: Marcelino Moreno (45′, for Rossetto) – 6/10 – A couple of bright moments but never truly scared Seattle.
SUB: Franco Ibarra (65′, for Cisneros) – 2/10 – Poor giveaway for Seattle’s goal, never adjusted to the match.
SUB: Andrew Gutman (81′, for Sosa) – 9/10 – Wasn’t on for long but came up with one of the goals of the season to win the match.
SUB: Edwin Mosquera (81′, for McFadden) – 6/10 – A late cameo, but got Atlanta United fans going with some exciting dribbles and crosses.
GK: Stefan Frei – 7/10 – Blocked by Nouhou on the goal but made some important saves to keep Seattle in the game.
RB: Alex Roldan – 8/10 – Came alive in the second half and was an attacking menace on the right flank.
CB: Yeimar Gomez – 6/10 – Solid but not exactly overworked by Martinez.
CB: Xavier Arreaga – 5/10 – Lost concentration a couple of times but was generally clean and tidy.
LB: Nouhou Tolo – 5/10 – Got in his goalkeeper’s way and deflected the first goal into his own net.
CM: Cristian Roldan – 8/10 – Fully deserving of his goal after a performance full of creativity and attacking endeavour.
CM: Albert Rusnak – 7/10 – Clocked up a lot of yards in a hard-working midfield performance but wasn’t able to offer a telling contribution in attack.
RW: Jordan Morris – 6/10 – Came close with a header saved onto the post by Rios Novo but was otherwise kept quiet.
CAM: Nico Lodeiro – 8/10 – Everything positive from the Sounders went through Lodiero, who picked up pockets of space all over the pitch.
LW: Leo Chu – 2/10 – Almost non-existent, hardly touching the ball and failing to test Atlanta United when he did.
ST: Will Bruin – 5/10 – Worked hard but was isolated. Only touched the ball 13 times.
SUB: Danny Leyva (55′, for Chu) – 7/10 – Way more involved than Chu and was clean and crisp with the ball.
SUB: Raul Ruidiaz (55′, for Bruin) – 6/10 – Came close with a powerful effort from distance near the end.
SUB: Josh Atencio (89′, for Rusnak) – N/A – Too late to affect the game.
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