MLS- record crowd wit­ness tie

More than 70,000 tick­ets sold as Martinez’s three goals rally At­lanta United.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - SPORTS - By Doug Roberson drober­son@ajc.com United con­tin­ued on C16

At­lanta United set an MLS at­ten­dance record and three times fought back be­hind Josef Marti

nez to earn a valu­able point in Satur­day’s 3-3 draw with Or­lando City at Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium.

The club an­nounced that 70,425 tick­ets were sold for the game, break­ing the league’s pre­vi­ous sin­gle-game record of 69,255 set

in 1996 at the Rose Bowl as L.A. Gal­axy faced the New York/New Jersey MetroS­tars.

“It is the story in pro sports,” MLS Com­mis­sioner Don Gar­ber said at half­time. “I’m proud to say that.

“It’s prov­ing that it’s de­fy­ing ev­ery­body’s ex­pec­ta­tions as to what soc­cer can be in this mar­ket.”

Two goals from Cyle Larin and

an­other by Dom Dwyer — all on headed shots — off­set Martinez’s

se­cond hat trick in as many games and third this sea­son. He is the third player in league his­tory to

score three goals in two con­sec­u­tive games.

The draw gives At­lanta United 43 points as it re­mains in fifth place in the East­ern Con­fer­ence. The New York Red Bulls, with 41 points, will host Philadel­phia to­day.

It was the first time in three games at Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium that At­lanta United (128-7) did not win, though it has scored 13 goals dur­ing that stretch.

Here are five ob­ser­va­tions from the game:

The com­mish speaks. Gar­ber said what At­lanta United is ac­com­plish­ing de­fies his ex­pec­ta­tion, say­ing it is the story in all of pro sports.

“This team is just in­cred­i­ble,” he said. “This team in six days will have more than 150,000 peo­ple come to three soc­cer matches.

“This is a great tes­ta­ment to (owner) Arthur (Blank’s) vi­sion, his ex­e­cu­tion be­cause I think you need to be able to de­liver on your plan, not just have a great plan. He’s got a ter­rific or­ga­ni­za­tion. It’s a good mo­ment for all of us in MLS.”

Gar­ber said the league wants soc­cer-spe­cific sta­di­ums, but after see­ing what’s oc­cur­ring in At­lanta and Seattle, which also con­sis­tently av­er­ages more than 40,000 at­ten­dance, he said the league may re­con­sider its stance.

Thoughts on the crowd. The play­ers said the en­ergy from the crowd lifted them.

“They were out­stand­ing,” full­back Chris McCann said. “It’s the big­gest crowd I’ve played in front of. When the board went up for the last cou­ple of min­utes the roof nearly lifted off the place. It was in­cred­i­ble. Great at­mos­phere through­out all the day. They nearly got us over the line.”

Good point or bad point? To fight back to tie the score three times to sal­vage a point was a pos­i­tive, man­ager Ger­ardo Martino and sev­eral play­ers said.

“The way the game went, I think we de­served to win to­day,” Martino said. “I’m happy with how we re­sponded to­day.”

At­lanta United had 17 shots to Or­lando City’s 10 and dom­i­nated per­cent­age of pos­ses­sion (62).

The team will host L.A. Gal­axy on Wed­nes­day in the fourth of six con­sec­u­tive home games.

The hat trick. After twice hit­ting the post, At­lanta United broke through in the 37th minute, with Hec­tor Vil­lalba pass­ing to a streak­ing Ju­lian Gres­sel, who chipped a pass across the mouth of the goal for Martinez to tap in.

Most of At­lanta United’s suc­cess on of­fense in the first half came down the right side with full­back An­ton Walkes and Vil­lalba work­ing off at­tack­ing mid­fielder Miguel Alm­iron.

Martinez scored his se­cond goal on a headed shot off a beau­ti­ful cross by McCann in the 55th minute. It was McCann’s se­cond as­sist this sea­son.

Martinez’s fi­nal goal came on a vol­ley off a cross by Vil­lalba.

The Venezue­lan has 16 goals in 14 games this sea­son, in­clud­ing seven goals in the past three games. Martinez be­came the third player in league his­tory to score three goals in con­sec­u­tive games. He de­clined to com­ment after the game.

Asked if he would rather con­tinue to play Martinez with his hot scor­ing touch or con­sider rest­ing him to make sure he may be good for the play­offs, Martino joked that he wants him to score 10 goals in four games and then he’ll con­sider rest­ing him.

Re­spon­si­bil­ity for Or­lando City’s goals. Walkes was mark­ing Dwyer on his se­cond goal and Larin on his goal — and said he takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for both goals.

On the first, he said he thought goal­keeper Brad Guzan was com­ing out for the ball. Walkes said he re­laxed and should have seen the play through.

“It’s an­other learn­ing point,” he said.

He said Larin dum­mied his move­ment, and he should have done bet­ter.

Though crit­i­cized on so­cial me­dia, Walkes, a nat­u­ral cen­ter­back, has been solid at right full­back this sea­son in his 10 pre­vi­ous starts.

Martino said the fault on the goals was his be­cause he played three play­ers at the back who hadn’t be­fore played to­gether in Walkes, Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Lar­en­tow­icz, who was in for the sus­pended Le­an­dro Gon­za­lez Pirez.

Parkhurst it was dis­ap­point­ing but not con­cern­ing be­cause he said the de­fense has been play­ing well this sea­son. It had posted shutouts in the past two games. It has seven shutouts this sea­son.

“We’ll re­goup and hope to have a bet­ter de­fen­sive per­for­mance Wed­nes­day,” Parkhurst said.

HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Satur­day’s paid at­ten­dance for the At­lanta United-Or­lando City match was 70,425 — an MLS record.

HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

At­lanta United for­ward Josef Martinez (cen­ter) be­came the third player in MLS his­tory to record hat tricks in two con­sec­u­tive games.

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