United captures MLS Cup for Atlanta’s 1st title since ‘95
ATLANTA — The players bounced up and down on a hastily erected stage in the middle of the field, confetti falling all around as they hoisted the championship trophy.
It’s a familiar scene at the end of any season.
Only this time, a team from Atlanta was doing the honors .
The title drought in over in the A-T-L.
Josef Martinez and Franco Escobar scored goals, Brad Guzan came up with a couple of clutch saves and Atlanta United gave the city its first championship since 1995 with a 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup final on Dec. 8.
Cheered on by the largest crowd in franchise history, United captured the crown in just its second season to set off a huge celebration in a city that has known so much sporting heartbreak. Owner Arthur Blank lifted a trophy and got soaked with champagne — less than two years after his other team, the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, squandered a 25-point lead in an epic Super Bowl collapse.
“My first night in my new house in Atlanta, I went to bed at halftime of the Super Bowl,” defender Jeff Larentowicz said. “I woke up and I read the headlines and I couldn’t believe what I saw.”
Now, United had written a new headline. Champs . “Hopefully, we can transcend that past,” Larentowicz said, “and move on to a new future for the city.”
Martinez, capping the greatest goal-scoring season in MLS history, put United ahead in 39th minute. Escobar added an insurance goal in the 54th, turning the final minutes into a raucous, flag-waving celebration and sending coach Tata Martino out with a title in his final game as coach. He’s reportedly headed to Mexico to take over as that country’s national coach.
“If I had to choose the way to leave somewhere, this is the best way,” Martino said. “This is the way I wanted it to happen.”
Atlanta reveled in its first title since the Braves won the 1995 World Series — a gap of 8,442 days, for those counting.
Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron (10) celebrates with his teammates as they take the stage for the trophy presentation after the MLS Cup championship.