Needing to overcome a three-goal deficit from Leg 1, Atlanta United exited 2020 Concacaf Champions League contention Wednesday night despite beating Club America 1-0 in the second leg of their quarterfinal matchup. They lost the series 3-1 on aggregate, becoming the third MLS team to exit the continental tournament at this stage.
Atlanta received some hope in the 82nd minute through Jackson Conway, who headed home a lofted cross from George Bello at the back post for a 1-0 lead. Conway signed a Homegrown Player deal back on Dec. 3, having emerged as Atlanta United 2’s leading scorer during the 2020 USL Championship season.
That momentum fizzled out in the 90th minute, however, when Designated Player Marcelino Moreno was shown a straight red card for violent conduct. The ATLUTD star kicked out at Santiago Naveda after a strong challenge, resulting in a straight dismissal.
If it weren’t for several key saves from Club America goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, the Five Stripes could have mounted a complete comeback against the same Liga MX club they beat for the 2019 Campeones Cup title. The longtime Mexico national team star finished with six saves.
Ochoa twice thwarted Erick “Cubo” Torres in the 69th minute, denying his one-timed effort after Bello squared a low cross into the striker’s path. Ochoa then parried aside a second shot from Torres and Jake Mulraney’s sliding attempt was headed off the line as Atlanta tried to earn the breakthrough.
Ochoa had earlier played hero in the 24th minute, getting down low to thwart a quick volley from Ezequiel Barco. The Argentine midfielder latched onto a flicked-on header from Erik Lopez, who was one of four Atlanta United players to sign a short-term agreement before the CCL match.
Another key chance arose in the 15th minute, but right back Franco Escobar’s low shot to the back post was swallowed up by Ochoa, foreshadowing what was to come at Exploria Stadium, the home of Orlando City SC and a neutral-site location for the game.
- 82' – ATL – Jackson Conway | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: It’s been a tumultuous season for Atlanta United, who now officially close the book on 2020 after missing the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in their four-year history. They faced long odds to overcome a 3-0 loss from Leg 1 on March 11, yet there’s solace in ending the season with a win over a traditional Liga MX powerhouse. They’re back in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League, too, having been awarded a spot after winning the 2019 U.S. Open Cup, a competition that wasn’t held this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Atlanta benefited from a Homegrown connection on their goal. Left back George Bello teed up a powerful header from Jackson Conway, giving the MLS side some hope before Marcelino Moreno’s 90th-minute red card made the mountain too steep to climb.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Even though Jackson Conway got a late goal, the nod goes to Club America goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. He came up clutch in the 69th minute especially, keeping the score level when Erick "Cubo" Torres had two prime chances.
- ATL: End of season