Atlanta United turned on the jets in second-half stoppage time, cruising to a 3-1 win Saturday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium over the San Jose Earthquakes and clinching a home playoff game. The result saw Frank de Boer's group keep pace for a top Eastern Conference spot in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs alongside New York City FC and the Philadelphia Union.
Before then, it looked like Atlanta and San Jose were going to split the points after trading first-half goals. Atlanta wing back Justin Meram scored on a deflected shot in the 4th minute to make it 1-0, though his effort was cancelled out in the 27th minute when a Cristian Espinoza cross ricocheted first off Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, then goalkeeper Brad Guzan, before finding the net.
Atlanta’s hopes of claiming all three points were complicated when Josef Martinez went down with an apparent knee injury in the 79th minute. He was removed via a stretcher, ending the striker's league-record goalscoring streak at 15 games.
San Jose played around 70 minutes across regulation and extra time down a man, as Espinoza was shown a second yellow card – and subsequent red – in the 34th minute. The ejections didn’t stop there, as Earthquakes’ head coach Matias Almeyda was sent off deep into the second half. Same goes for leading scorer Chris Wondolowski, dealing the club several major setbacks ahead of their upcoming match Wednesday against Philadelphia.
- 4' – ATL – Justin Meram | WATCH
- 27' – SJ – Brad Guzan (OG) | WATCH
- 90' – ATL – Emerson Hyndman | WATCH
- 90+2' – ATL – Gonzalo Martinez | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: San Jose have now lost all three matches from their three-game road swing, making it an uphill battle to get into the Western Conference playoffs. They showed plenty of fight when going down a man, but arguably too much given that Almeyda, Espinoza and Wondolowski were all sent off. Meanwhile, Atlanta made it a two-win week in pursuit of the East’s No. 1 seed and ensured they could finish no lower than fourth, meaning they will play at least one home game in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. That accomplishment was soured by questions of how long Josef Martinez, last year’s Landon Donovan MLS MVP Award winner, will be out injured.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: It has to be the Josef Martinez injury, and not just because it snapped his 15-game goal-scoring streak. For Atlanta to defend their MLS Cup title, surely they’ll need the Venezuelan healthy and ready to contribute.
- MAN OF THE MATCH:. Emerson Hyndman. The midyear addition had a brutal miss deep into first-half stoppage time, then made amends with a 90-minute game-winner. It was his first league goal since joining on loan from AFC Bournemouth.