ATLANTA — There was a moment in the 2018 MLS Cup that will most likely get lost in the wave of euphoria currently taking over Atlanta.
Four minutes after Josef Martinez opened the scoring for Atlanta United with his 35th goal of the season, goalkeeper Brad Guzan leapt to save Portland forward Jeremy Ebobisse’s close-range header after Sebastian Blanco swung in a pinpoint cross.
Ebobisse was just six yards from goal and made a strong connection with the ball to direct it on target, but Guzan showed his quick reflexes and pawed the shot away from danger to send Atlanta into the dressing room in front at halftime.
While Guzan’s save probably won’t be remembered in the same way as Stefan Frei’s acrobatic save for Seattle against Toronto in 2016 MLS Cup, it still serves as a reminder that not only goals change games, but so can saves, especially at vital turning points in a match.
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“You never know when you’re going to be in a final,” Guzan said in the dressing room following the team’s prosecco and beer shower. “To play in one and to win one is massive. You started to sense that they kind of tossed in the towel a little bit. The first goal was huge and listen, goals change games. The first goal was going to be a massive one way or the other.”
“This is up there,” Guzan continued. “Not every day you get to win a title and win championships, so to be a part of this, it’s truly special.”
During Guzan’s window with the media he got teasingly heckled by captain Michael Parkhurst and goalkeeper coach Aron Hyde. They joked with Guzan for getting the attention considering he had a relatively quiet night, three saves in all, with the first-half save being the most momentous.
To which Guzan responded: “It changed the game, mate! It changed the game!”