Hector Villalba

Photo credit: @MLS

Josef Martinez ties MLS record with 27th goal in 2018 (video)

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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.

[ MORE: Report: David Moyes could become new USMNT boss ]

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.

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Man of the match: Hector Villalba

Goalscorers: Martinez (31′), Zardes (50′), Villalba (76′), Almiron (82′)

MLS Snapshot: Atlanta United 2-3 Minnesota United

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The game in 100 wordsDown 1-0 and down a man, Atlanta went to work in front of another massive crowd in Atlanta, blissfully unconcerned with it being Tuesday. Abu Danladi scored a nice goal to put Minnesota up, but Hector Villalba nabbed his 13th goal of the season before Providence alum Julian Gressel slashed a Yamil Asad feed home to give Atlanta its first lead of the night. But right when Atlanta looked set to move into pole position for a first round bye, Christian “Stop Calling Up Wondo, Bruce” Ramirez did his thing to level the score and then Kevin Molino turned it into a shock Loons win.

Five moments that mattered

48′ — Danladi stays hot — When Minnesota tabbed Abu Danladi from UCLA with the first pick in the SuperDraft, it was envisioning bullet goals like this (his third in four matches):

67′ — Bad giveaway to the wrong dude — The first of two poor turnovers that led to goals in five minutes, it was Hector Villalba burying his chance:

72′ — Asad, the playmaker — A terrific pass from the Velez Sarsfield loanee was finished with aplomb by the 8th pick in the SuperDraft in Gressel:

90′ — United, Divided — Marking optional for Atlanta, as Ethan Finlay nods a corner in the direction of Christian Ramirez, who does what finishers do by pushing the ball through a mass of Five Stripes players.

90+6′ — Loony finish — Remind Molino to leave these dramatics with his club when he heads to Trinidad and Tobago for a match-up with the USMNT next week.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the Match: Kevin Molino

MLS Snapshot: ATL uphold home dominance, grind it out vs. MTL

Photo credit: Atlanta United / @ATLUTD
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The game in 100 words (or less): Here’s the only foolproof advice for any MLS team desperate for points in their pursuit of a playoff spot — don’t play Atlanta United, just don’t do it. Tata Martino’s side, now in the middle of a lengthy home-stand at the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, has one four of their last five games (all at home) and climbed into third place in the Eastern Conference, finally surpassing the Chicago Fire, in the process. What’s more, Atlanta (49 points) also have a game in hand (or two) on every team above them in the standings. Hector Villalba and Jeff Laretnowicz bagged the goals during Sunday’s 2-0 victory over the Montreal Impact, though this weekend’s greatest impact on Atlanta’s season is perhaps yet to be felt after Miguel Almiron left the game with an injury early in the first half.

[ MORE: TFC’s Shield celebration delayed | RSL end Seattle’s run at 13 ]

Three Four moments that mattered

17′ — Almiron leaves the field in tears, injured — Almiron left the game with an apparent leg injury. The 23-year-old Paraguayan, who has 9 goals and 13 assists this season, appeared to be in tears as he left the field.

28′ — Villalba unleashes a thunderbolt for 1-0 — If not for the back of the net, Villalba’s laser beam would still be traveling at a slightly upward trajectory two or three hours from now.

72′ — Guzan denies Salazer one-on-one to keep it 1-0 — Brad Guzan wasn’t asked to make a save until the 72nd minute, and the U.S. national teamer came up huge against Michael Salazar.

73′ — Larentowicz scores on the other end for 2-0 — Soccer, much like life, comes at you fast.

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Man of the match: Carlos Carmona

Goalscorers: Villalba (28′), Larentowicz (73′)

MLS Snapshot: Kaka’s stunner spoiled late; ATL, ORL draw 1-1

AP Photo/John Raoux
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The game in 100 words (or less): Eight days ago, Atlanta United visited Orlando City SC and departed central Florida with three points, courtesy of Hector Villalba’s 86th-minute winner. On Saturday, Orlando so nearly returned the favor — invading their southeastern neighbors and walking out of Bobby Dodd Stadium with a 1-0 victory of their own, courtesy of Kaka’s 25-yard bomb five minutes before halftime; it would be Orlando’s lone shot on target all afternoon — but Villalba played the part of late-game hero for a second straight week, slipping behind the backline and equalizing in the 92nd minute. Miguel Almiron hit the post twice (in nine total shots). The point pushes Orlando to within two of sixth-place Columbus Crew SC, while Atlanta remain fourth, four points back of third-place New York City FC.

[ MORE: SKC trade Dwyer to ORL | Sigi back to LA | LAFC hire Bradley ]

Three Four moments that mattered

15′ — Almiron hits the post from 25 — Bendik probably has it covered if its on target, but he’ll be happy he didn’t have to make the save on this one.

39′ — Almiron hits woodwork again — More of the slick, outside-in counter-attacking we’ve come to know and love from Atlanta. Unfortunately for Tata Martino’s side, Almiron found nothing but (the other) post.

40′ — Kaka smashes from distance for 1-0 — The ensuing goal kick found Cyle Larin, who laid the ball off for Kaka, and the 2007 World Player of the Year knew what to do from there.

90+2′ — Villalba slips in, makes it 1-1 — He was so nearly offside as Yamil Asad played the final ball through, and Villalba hammered it home inside the near post to rescue a point.

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Man of the match: Miguel Almiron

Goalscorers: Kaka (40′), Villalba (90+2′)

MLS Snapshot: Atlanta 3-1 Crew | Revolution 1-2 Fire (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Is there any doubt that Atlanta’s Designated Player signings have paid off? They certainly did on Saturday with all three of the club’s DPs notching goals in the win for Tata Martino’s group. It was a brilliant return for Josef Martinez, who scored his sixth goal of the season with a blast from a tight angle, while Miguel Almiron continues to impress up front for Atlanta. Yamil Asad is quietly becoming one of the top playmaker’s in MLS as well, adding his eighth assist of the year. The victory puts Atlanta into the sixth and final playoff spot in the East.

Three moments that mattered

16′ — Villalba fires hosts in front — The defensive miscues continue for the Crew and Hector Villalba made the visitors pay big time. Side note: That’s Yamil Asad’s EIGHTH assist of the season…

26′ — Crew equalize through Higuain — Scrappy does it sometimes and Federico Higuain was in the right place at the right time for this one.

67′ — Almiron puts Atlanta back on top — So cool. So casual. Miguel Almiron makes everything look way too easy.

88′ — Martinez with an absolute scorcher — It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a goal from this man, but wow! Just wow!

Man of the match: Miguel Almiron

Goalscorers: Hector Villalba (16′), Federico Higuain (26′), Miguel Almiron (67′), Josef Martinez (88′)


Twitter/@ChicagoFire

The game in 100 words (or less): The Chicago Fire are the hottest team in MLS and Nemanja Nikolic is looking like a legitimate MVP candidate. The Fire striker has 13 goals on the season now after adding another on Saturday, while also tallying the game-winning assist with just under a half hour remaining. For the Revs, it’s the club’s first loss at home of the season, snapping a seven-game perfect run to start 2017.

Three moments that mattered

18′ — Nikolic just keeps on scoring — Is there a better signing this winter than Nemanja Nikolic? I’ll wait… That’s 13 goals now for the Fire striker.

61′ — Solignac doubles the lead — That’s some touch from Nikolic to get it into his partner’s path for the finish. 2-0 Fire.

70′ — Delamea gives the Revs a glimmer of hope — He took a shot winning this header but still gave the Revs a chance at a point with 20 minutes left.

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Man of the match: Nemanja Nikolic

Goalscorers: Nemanja Nikolic (18′), Luis Solignac (61′), Antonio Mlinar Delamea (70′)