Josef Martinez continued his torrid goalscoring pace, picking up a historic hat trick as Atlanta United returned to winning ways with a 3-1 victory over Wayne Rooney and D.C. United.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for the league-leading Five Stripes, though. After a brief spell of early pressure from Atlanta, D.C. drew first blood in the eighth minute. The goal came on the counterattack as Paul Arriola sprang Zoltan Stieber with a through ball to the right that the Hungarian put away for his fourth tally of the season.
Atlanta would equalize just before the half-hour mark through Martinez, the runaway MLS Golden Boot leader. A minute after he was denied on the breakaway by D.C. 'keeper David Ousted, Martinez beat the experienced 'keeper to the ball to head home a cross from from Hector Villalba following some slick buildup play.
Martinez bagged his second of the game less than 10 minutes after the re-start, finding himself in the right place at the right time to head home a deflected cross at the far post for his 21st of the season. He would collect his hat trick on the counter after Miguel Almiron's through ball was blocked but fell kindly to the Venezuelan, who comfortably rounded Ousted to bag his sixth career hat trick in MLS, a league record.
The game also saw Ben Olsen start Rooney for the first time since the English star joined the club, though he was replaced by Darren Mattocks after a fairly quiet 66 minutes. On the Atlanta side of things, Ezequiel Barco was dropped from the 18 by head coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino, who handed young phenom Andrew Carleton his first start.
- 8' – DC – Zoltan Stieber | Watch
- 29' – ATL – Josef Martinez | Watch
- 54' – ATL – Josef Martinez | Watch
- 73' – ATL – Josef Martinez | Watch
- THE BIG PICTURE: After picking up a point from their last two games, Atlanta are back in the win column and on a hugely impressive 2 points per game pace. They'll have to be feeling good about their Supporters' Shield chances, though New York City FC and FC Dallas will be breathing down their neck if they win their games later Saturday evening. At the individual level, Martinez is now five goals away from a share of the single-season MLS goalscoring record and six away from holding it outright with 12 games left on the schedule. He'll have to like his chances. D.C., meanwhile, remain rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but play 14 of their remaining 18 games at home after opening Audi Field.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: With the game deadlocked late in the first half, Brad Guzan came up with a monster point-blank save on Luciano Acosta that saved Atlanta from an unhappy trip to the locker room and ultimately set the table for a much more comfortable second half.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Nothing to debate here as the honors go to the hat trick hero, Josef Martinez.
- Atlanta: Saturday, July 28 at Montreal (7 pm ET | TVAS in Canada - full TV & streaming info)
- D.C.: Wednesday, July 25 vs. NY Red Bulls (8 pm ET | TV & streaming info)