Atlanta’s win ensured they ended the night above the Eastern Conference line with three matches remaining before the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs, as they currently sit in sixth place. Miami’s postseason hopes are on life support as they're six points out of seventh place with two matches left on their schedule.
Looking to spoil Atlanta’s playoff push while boosting their own, Miami pulled ahead just past the half-hour mark via a penalty when Video Review determined that Brad Guzan’s cleat caught the foot of Lewis Morgan inside the box on an attempt for the ball. Gonzalo Higuain then fired the resulting attempt past Guzan from the spot for a 1-0 lead.
With Atlanta looking to climb back in the match, Gonzalo Pineda inserted Marcelino Moreno at halftime in an effort to spark the attack. Meanwhile, Miami nearly made it 2-0 in the 53rd minute when Higuain sought to secure a brace for himself on a great cross from Kelvin Leerdam but instead was stonewalled by Guzan.
However, Atlanta pulled level a few minutes before the hour-mark after Ezequiel Barco drew a free kick just beyond the box. Luiz Araujo was called upon and delivered a driven effort that appeared to take a slight deflection before finding its way past Nick Marsman to put the hosts back on level terms.
And Atlanta appeared to have made it 2-1 with 20 minutes to go after a perfect cross was headed goalward by Martinez. But the goal wouldn’t count as Martinez was ruled offside, a call confirmed by Video Review.
It wouldn’t matter, though, as Atlanta made it 2-1 just minutes later. A pretty buildup ended with Araujo slipping an inch-perfect ball through to Martinez, and this time the striker was onside and finished a 1-v-1 chance past Marsman as the Five Stripes took the lead.
Miami found themselves in desperation mode with their already faint playoff aspirations having taken a massive hit, but Guzan came up with a massive denial of Robbie Robinson’s bid for an equalizer in the 89th minute.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Atlanta needed this win after surrendering a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw against New York City FC in their last outing. However, they know that they’ll have to dictate the action on Saturday, their final home game of the regular season, against a Toronto FC side looking to play spoiler. Miami are technically still alive in the playoff hunt thanks to D.C. United’s win against the New York Red Bulls, but the possibility of postseason soccer in South Florida has nearly vanished since the Herons need maximum points from their final two matches plus a great deal of help from other clubs.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Brad Guzan came up with the save of the night on Robbie Robinson with the match nearing its finish. The Atlanta ‘keeper absolutely robbed the Miami striker to keep the match at 2-1 and ultimately seal the win.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Luiz Araujo. Atlanta’s Deadline Day acquisition leveled the match with his free-kick goal and set up Martinez’s match-winner, proving once more what a valuable signing he was.