The game in 200 words (or less): Josef Martinez isn’t quite the single-season MLS goals king, though he will be very soon after tying the league’s all-time mark on Sunday. Martinez bagged the opening goal in Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over Columbus Crew SC to take his 2018 tally to 27 goals (tying Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips, chronologically). The calendar still says August, by the way. Atlanta — and Martinez — have played just 25 games this season, meaning Martinez could very well take his tally into the mid-30s. It’s a record that could stand for quite some time, should MLS stick with the current 34-game regular-season schedule. Back to the game itself, Gyasi Zardes brought Columbus level five minutes into the second half, but Hector Villalba and Miguel Almiron — just two of Atlanta’s other dynamite South American attackers — each bagged a goal inside the game’s final 15 minutes to push Tata Martino’s side, which is now unbeaten is six league games (four wins, two draws), back atop the Supporters’ Shield race. Their lead is currently three points, though the second-place New York Red Bulls have a game in hand and would retake the top spot (on the wins tiebreaker) with a win over third-place New York City FC on Wednesday.
Three moments that mattered
31′ — Gressel sets up Martinez to tie the record — Martinez is lethal enough as a goal scorer without the opposition lazily giving the ball away inside their own half. When they do that, as Harrison Afful does here, there’s not much sense in trying to stop the Venezuelan.
76′ — Villalba goes and goes, until he scores — No one felt it necessary to step up to Villalba and make a legitimate challenge for the ball as he weaved his way roughly 50 yards across the field before tucking his left-footed strike — the game-winner — inside the far post.
82′ — Almiron hits ATL’s third, from distance — Martinez, hunting the record-breaking goal, could have so easily done the selfish thing and taken the ill-advised shot from 20 yards here, but instead he held the ball up, waited for the late-arriving run of Almiron and teed up the Paraguayan to put the game out of reach.
Man of the match: Hector Villalba
Goalscorers: Martinez (31′), Zardes (50′), Villalba (76′), Almiron (82′)