A brace from Justin Meram powered Atlanta United to a 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact on Saturday evening at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, making it six straight wins at home for the defending MLS Cup champions.
Meram’s first came in the 35th minute, as Montreal sat deep and seemed happy to absorb pressure with a five-man backline. But the former Columbus Crew SC talisman scored a world-class strike, curling home from 25 yards beyond Evan Bush to make it 1-0.
Coming out of the halftime break, Montreal grew into the game and found an equalizer in the 50th minute. Harry Novillo, on a recycled corner kick, ripped a volley to the back post that center back Zakaria Diallo cushioned home with his thigh to draw matters level at 1-1.
The match seemed destined for a draw, only for Meram to appear in the right place at the right time in the 83rd minute. The Iraqi winger smashed home his second from atop the goalmouth after Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Brek Shea combined on a corner kick.
With a 2-1 lead, Atlanta saw out the match and climbed within touching distance of second place in the Eastern Conference standings.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Atlanta allowed a goal at home for the first time since April 20, but that mattered little in the end as they leapfrogged the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings. The Five Stripes are now 9-6-2 at the halfway mark in their first season under head coach Frank de Boer. As for Montreal, their first road match since May 24 saw hope quickly turn into disappointment. It’s back to the drawing board for Remi Garde’s team, which had previously won three in four.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Meram’s first goal for Atlanta United was pure class, plus was his first in MLS since Sept. 1, 2018. Meram delivered a two-assist performance in the U.S. Open Cup earlier this month, so perhaps he’s heating up with the likes of Josef Martinez, Ezequiel Barco and Tito Villalba either injured or on international duty.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Could it really be anyone else? Meram’s brace makes him the obvious choice here, as the 30-year-old enjoyed his best game since a 2017 season in which he had 13 goals and seven assists. He was subbed off in the 87th minute to a deserved standing ovation.