Miguel Almiron, Atlanta unfazed by physical LA Galaxy: "Every team tries"

CARSON, Calif.—With Atlanta United streaking toward a six-game unbeaten run, the LA Galaxy opted for the physical approach on Saturday at Stubhub Center.

It didn't help.

The Galaxy were continually pressured by an overwhelming Atlanta attack, only able to unleash a lone shot on goal and nothing of consequence from star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a 2-0 defeat.

Miguel Almiron, whose late penalty kick secured the three points, was Atlanta's sparkplug, as usual, and LA dealt with his dynamic movement by knocking him to the turf a good half-dozen times or so. The Paraguayan playmaker drew yellow cards from Jorgen Skjelvik and Perry Kitchen and the first of two Atlanta penalties, which Josef Martinez blasted off the left post in the 21st minute.

“Every team tries to do that [to Almiron], but he's so quick and agile, it's difficult for one guy to get close to him,” said Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst. “He's just deadly in space. It's impossible to defend him 1-on-1. So, hopefully, the referees continue to do a good job protecting him, because he's special.”

Head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino thought referee Baldomero Toledo could have done more.

“Physical is one thing,” he said. “What happened to Miguel might be another thing. It depends on the referee, nobody else … In the first half, there were three plays on Miguel, including the penalty [on a foul by Rolf Feltscher], which were probably orange.”

Atlanta, meanwhile, got the only goal it needed in the 22nd minute, with Martinez in the right spot to finish a ball off the crossbar -- the third shot to hit the goal frame in an astonishing 80-second sequence.

Martinez netted his sixth goal of the campaign, and his 25th in 27 MLS games, by doing what he does best.

“That's a great strength of his,” Martino said, “to always be in the right place.”

Martinez, who was disappointed not to score in the NYCFC draw, said it was “important” that he finally hit the net.

“I didn't have the luck go my way on the penalty, but then I was able to be in the right place to convert ...,” he said. “When a forward doesn't score, they're not happy.”

Martinez and his teammates could go home happy, after a performance Martino felt was their best road showing since last year's expansion debut.

“We knew it would be [a gritty game],” Parkhurst said. “We knew that there were going to be points in this game that we were going to have to grind ... We bent, we didn't break, and we did what we needed to do defensively.”