Pity Martinez

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Three things we learned from Atlanta United-Toronto FC (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Level at one but holding the hosts at bay, Toronto FC looked content to drag the life out of the Eastern Conference Final. One of its attackers had other ideas, though, as Nick DeLeon dribbled into and then out of traffic to smash a shot past Brad Guzan from outside the box and earn the Reds their third MLS Cup Final berth in four years (all against Seattle Sounders).

The Five Stripes came out of the gates hot in both halves. Julian Gressel rolled a ball over the line in the fourth minute of the first half and Atlanta won a penalty with embellishment only to see Quentin Westberg deny Josef Martinez from the spot. Both Westberg and Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan were very decent in the first half, Nicolas Benezet’s equalizer a curling thing of beauty. A league with almost unrivaled home field advantage saw two celebrated home sides beaten by cagey former champions. MLS is a riot.

One more note: Here’s a nod to USMNT hero Michael Parkhurst, whose career ends one match short of another final.

“I have to say that today was resiliency,” said manager Greg Vanney. “It wasn’t beautiful soccer. These guys refused to give up, kept looking for their moment and got it. I don’t think there were too many statistical categories we won.”

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Three things we learned

1. Bradley, TFC caught sleeping early: Toronto FC’s hopes of taking the Mercedes Benz Stadium crowd out of this one took a seismic shake when Michael Bradley somehow didn’t realize Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez was right behind him to blaze onto a terrific through ball from in-form Ezequiel Barco. Martinez held onto the ball as long as possible before sending a pass to Gressel for as easy a finish as you’ll see at this level. 1-0 in the fourth minute. Bradley then conceded a penalty to an embellishing but fouled Martinez, but French-American goalkeeper Quentin Westberg bailed him out with a fine save on Josef Martinez to keep the deficit at one. Buy him dinner, MB90.

2. TFC makes only attacking moments count: Nicolas Benezet quickly restored the deadlock with a terrific finish from the corner of the box. The ex-Guingamp midfielder ran onto a marvelous diagonal pass from center back Laurent Ciman. Benezet cut in freom the left and spun a curling effort toward the back post that ex-Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan could not rescue before it rippled the netting for 1-1 in the 14th minute. You could argue that there wasn’t another threat from the Canadian side until DeLeon’s winner, which was a smashing shot to cap a smash and grab.

3. Westberg, Mavinga keep Reds in the match: Yes, of course, the penalty kick save was an outstanding moment for the former Troyes and Auxerre goalkeeper, but he would be needed many times over the course of the match including two moments in the first few moments of the second half. Decisive off his line and composed on it, the 33-year-old continues to validate Greg Vanney’s decision to put him in the lineup over MLS Cup winner Nick Bono. As for Chris Mavinga, the physical Congolese defender was a force. A few days after a Man of the Match performance in New York, Mavinga rebounded from an in-game injury to make two decisive interventions in the final five minutes.

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Man of the match: Westberg.

Goalscorers: Gonzalo Martinez (4′), Nicolas Benezet (14′), Nick DeLeon (78′)

NYCFC rides Mitrita 1st half hat trick to cusp of East’s No. 1 seed

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Alexandru Mitrita has heated up in a big way at the right time.

New York City’s Romanian winger scored three goals in the first 34 minutes of play of a massive match against Atlanta United at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.

NYC rode those goals to a 4-1 win, with a Pity Martinez penalty the only concession and a Heber marker in the 87th minute the finishing touch.

[ ROUNDUP: Insane League Cup match day yields ‘cupsets’ ]

That gives him six goals and two assists in his last six matches. Pretty good stuff as NYCFC is on the verge of clinching the No. 1 spot in the East, which could happen as soon as Philadelphia’s trip to San Jose for a 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff.

Maxi Moralez assisted Mitrita’s second goal, and became just the third player in MLS history to register 20 assists in a season (Carlos Valderrama and Sacha Kljestan).

Atlanta can no longer catch NYC, and the Philadelphia Union are nine points back with three matches to play. City has two, has 12 goals better differential, and travels to Chester to face the Union on Decision Day.

The Heber goal was stupid, as he tackled Leandro Gonzalez Pirez before putting Brad Guzan on a Slip ‘N Slide.

Almeyda, Wondolowski sent off in Quakes’ fall against Atlanta (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Melodrama took center stage in Atlanta United’s 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes, as Matias Almeyda, Chris Wondolowski and Cristian Espinoza were all sent off on Saturday. Josef Martinez, six games away from tying Lionel Messi’s world record for most consecutive goals, left the field in 79th minute following an injury, ending his MLS-record run at 15 games. Playing with 10 players from the 34th minute onwards, the Quakes held on to the draw up until the 90th minute. Unmarked inside the box, Emerson Hyndman rocketed the ball past Daniel Vega, who recorded nine saves throughout the night. In stoppage time, Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez was rewarded for his stellar performance with a goal of his own. With a game at hand, Eastern Conference leaders, NYCFC, are three points ahead Frank De Boer‘s side. The Quakes, on the other hand, have internal fires to put out as they have lost six of their last eight, and are only a point above the red line with three games to play.

Three moments that mattered

27′ — Great run by Espinoza, greater ball by Vega  — Daniel Vega and Cristian Espinoza were players that San Jose were desperately missing last season. This sequence says it all.

 

90′ — Emerson Hyndman wins it for the Five Stripes   — Hyndman, with no one near him, seals three points for the home side.

 

90′ + 2 — Martinez takes advantage of broken San Jose  — Martinez’s goal was only salt in San Jose’s fresh wound.

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Man of the match: Gonzalo “Pity”  Martinez

Goalscorers: Meram (4′), Guzan (27′ – OG), Hyndman (90′), Martinez (90′ + 2)

Pity, 10-man Atlanta United hold on for U.S. Open Cup crown

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It’s taken Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez some time to get used to these United States, but he’s in the sweet spot now.

He’s also a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion.

Martinez scored six minutes after a Minnesota United own goal as Atlanta United built an early lead and held on through a Leandro Gonzalez Pirez red card at Mercedes Benz Stadium on Tuesday.

It’s Atlanta’s first USOC title, the first won by a team from Georgia, and joins the club’s 2018 MLS Cup in the trophy case

To borrow an adjective from PST’s Joe Prince-Wright, the second half was pulsating.

Atlanta’s first goal came when Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s cross was partially blocked but took a turn into the goal in the 10th minute.

After failing to record a goal or assist in his first eight MLS contests, Pity Martinez posted three goals and seven assists in his next 18 plus two goals in the Open Cup.

Minnesota pulled one back just after the break to reinvigorate the match.

It was Robin Lod who produced the goal, the Finnish national team hitting a shot that deflected past Brad Guzan.

Pirez made it more tense when he took his second yellow card in the 74th minute.

Ike Opara missed a first half chance, but thought he made up for it in stoppage time. His would-be equalizing assist was popped over the bar by Michael Boxall.

Atlanta United wins Campeones Cup as Josef Martinez comes through

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If at first you do not succeed, try and try again. That is how Josef Martinez proceeded through the 90 minutes at Mercedes Benz Stadium, missing a first-half penalty and seeing a close-range effort saved after the break, but he delivered the winning blow with a 65th minute spot-kick to see Atlanta United over Club America 3-2 to win the Campeones Cup.

Atlanta United went in front early thanks to Bournemouth loanee Emerson Hyndman who put Atlanta United up inside the opening five minutes. A fabulous flick by Dion Pereira sent Hyndman through who finished one-touch inside the far post past Oscar Jimenez.

The home side was dominant on the ball, holding 60% possession through the first 45 minutes. Club America, however, remained dangerous when countering, and they struck back just minutes later through Roman Ibarra who roofed the equalizer. The goal came off fabulous work by Roger Martinez who corralled a hot pass from Andres Ibarguen down the left and worked his way down to the end line and along the edge before rifling a ball across the face of goal to Ibarra waiting at the far post for a thumping finish.

Atlanta United had a glorious opportunity to go in front after VAR forced a review of an incident in the box and a penalty was given for a foul by Bruno Valdez who clumsily hacked down Pity Martinez. Josef Martinez stepped up but his unorthodox run-up failed to produce a result as Jimenez saved the poor effort and the charging defense thwarted any rebound effort.

After the break, the two sides had good chances, with Josef Martinez missing a glorious opportunity soon after the restart as he trickled a breakaway shot wide left. Roger Martinez put Club America in front just before the hour mark on a corner as Atlanta goalkeeper Alec Kahn failed to judge the delivery right at the goal mouth and Martinez poked the effort in from point-blank range.

The lead wouldn’t last long – two minutes to be exact – as Jeff Larentowicz produced a piledriver from well outside the box and the effort took a deflection off the head of Carlos Vargas, seeing the ball sail into the top corner past a rooted Jimenez. The goal brought a sheepish smile from Frank De Boer as Mercedes Benz Stadium lit up.

Josef Martinez nearly put Atlanta in front minutes later, but Jimenez saved spectacularly with the goal gaping on Pereira’s scything cutback. He got another chance moments later, though, as Florentin Pogba was barged over by Guido Rodriguez, a blatant penalty. Martinez this time delivered a blistering effort from the spot, putting Atlanta United up 3-2 with a firecracker into the top-left corner.

The home side took firm control from that point, first coming close again via Pity Martinez who delivered a stunning free-kick that was athletically headed off the line by Valdez. The Paraguayan defender would not last much longer on the pitch, however, as he dragged down Josef Martinez on the break to earn his second yellow card and a sending off with 18 minutes to go.

The Club America meltdown was complete when manager Miguel Herrera and an assistant were both shown yellow cards by the official for dissent on the touchline, and the boss took some time to calm down as he gesticulated wildly. Club America threw goalkeeper Jimenez for a final corner effort, but it was a poor delivery and the final whistle blew to crown Atlanta United the first Campeones Cup winners from Major League Soccer.