Atlanta United advanced to the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals thanks to a 1-0 victory over Alajuelense in the second leg of the Round of 16 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium Tuesday night.
Atlanta, which earned a 1-0 win in Costa Rica in the opening leg, will face the winner of the Round of 16 draw between the Philadelphia Union and Saprissa. The Union bring a 1-0 advantage back to Chester for the second leg.
With Alajuelense pressing late and pushing numbers forward with the hopes of forcing a penalty kick shootout, Jürgen Damm put the tie away in the first minute of stoppage-time off an assist from Ezequiel Barco.
After some nervy moments in the back that went unpunished, ATLUTD had a golden chance to take the lead late in the first half, but Barco’s free kick deflected off Alajuelense’s five-man wall and out for a corner kick.
Alajuelense, which fielded a shorthanded squad due to U.S. travel protocols around the COVID-19 pandemic, had their best chance of a scoreless first half two minutes later. José Cubero got on the end of a free kick, but directed his header wide of the far post.
The Costa Rican visitors had a penalty shout three minutes into the second half when George Bello and Alonso Martinez in the box, but no foul was given much to the chagrin of Alajuelense manager Andrés Carevic.
In the 54th minute, Santiago Sosa got on the end of a sublime Brooks Lennon corner kick, but his header clanged off the woodwork. Alonso Martinez then came within inches from an aggregate equalizer seconds later as the match opened up.
A Junior Diaz header off a corner kick had Atlanta faithful sweating out the tie’s closing moments and they nearly leveled if not for an important denial by goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo.
- 90’+1’ — ATL — Jürgen Damm | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: Josef Martinez was largely silent in his first start for ATLUTD in more than a year before coming off and the Five Stripes looked disjointed in the attacking third, unable to take advantage of a shorthanded Alajuelense squad. But they survived and advanced and that’s all that matters at this point.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: If not for Rocco Rios Novo flashing out his left leg on a dangerous through ball late, the Five Stripes might not have advanced.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Brooks Lennon's service was accurate and dangerous throughout the match and he was arguably ATLUTD's most consistent threat in the final third. Barco gets a nod as well, especially for his impact in the match’s critical moment to secure the victory and trip to the quarterfinals.
- ATL: Saturday, April 17 at Orlando City SC | UniMás, TUDN, Twitter (English audio)