MLS- record crowd witness tie
More than 70,000 tickets sold as Martinez’s three goals rally Atlanta United.
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.
Saturday’s paid attendance for the Atlanta United-Orlando City match was 70,425 — an MLS record.
Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (center) became the third player in MLS history to record hat tricks in two consecutive games.