In a game where everything that could go wrong for Atlanta United seemed to do so, the Five Stripes lost a heartbreaker to the Montreal Impact, 2-1. Anthony Jackson-Hamel’s goal in second half stoppage time was the difference. He was able to redirect a wayward shot from Hernan Bernardello past a helpless Alec Kann. Kenwyne Jones’ opening goal was matched by a late first-half penalty kick from Ignacio Piatti. The foul leading to the penalty kick resulted in a red card to Atlanta center back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez that forced United to play short-handed for the entire second half.
The game started with a wide open first half as both teams created dangerous opportunities to score. It was the Trinidad and Tobago national team striker Jones who opened the scoring for the visitors. Midfielder Carlos Carmona intercepted a poor clearance from Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush. He found right winger Tito Villalba who split the defense with a perfectly weighted pass for Jones. A first-time shot beat Bush to the near post and Atlanta looked to be in complete control.
Montreal midfielder Patrice Bernier chipped in a curling pass to striker Matteo Mancosu late in first half stoppage time. Mancosu was able to get better positioning on Gonzalez Pirez, draw the contact, and earn the penalty kick. Referee Alan Kelly then made the questionable decision to show Gonzalez Pirez the red card. Piatti tied the game up before halftime on the penalty kick, and Atlanta was forced to play the entire second half with 10 men.
Tata Martino replaced midfielder Julian Gressel with center back Anton Walkes to start the second half in an effort to reorganize his team. Atlanta did not merely sit back and try to soak up Montreal pressure, they looked for opportunities to get forward. As the clock continued to run though, the Five Stripes began to run out of gas. Jones and Villalba were substituted and the team began to defend more deeply. Montreal struggled to break them down and find an answer, and it appeared that a draw would be the final result before Bernardello’s late chance. The initial shot likely would have been at least 10 yards wide, but Jackson-Hamel was able to react quickly and get a touch on it that beat a sprawling Kann.
Atlanta closes out this four game road trip next weekend in Salt Lake City as the Five Stripes face Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. Kickoff will be just after 9:30 p.m. ET.
Manager Tata Martino on the team’s third red card in six games:
“Excessive. Not strange, but a little excessive.”
Forward Kenwyne Jones on playing with 10 men:
“Sometimes, with the red card, you are in a defensive caution. Maybe, for some reason, it’s easier to play at home with 10 men, but away from home, it’s pretty tough. I think, in my opinion, we suffered from rough calls against us away from home. I’m happy with the way we fought until the end. We didn’t get the result but, at the same time, it’s good for the team going forward.”
Defender Greg Garza on the recent red cards:
“It is what it is. I think they were unfortunate calls, especially in the last two games. I think the referees can go to the replays and see. We all make mistakes, we are all human beings. I think the referees can get in groups and see the mistakes they made.”
- The effort put in by Atlanta in the second half is a big takeaway from Saturday’s match. Miguel Almiron seemed to playing for two men in midfield, covering tons of ground, and still keeping Montreal’s defense honest.
- Right back Mark Bloom learned he would be starting on Saturday morning after Tyrone Mears’ ankle injury kept him off the field. The Marietta native responded very well with a strong performance. He was often matched up with Ignacio Piatti, especially in the second half. The 2015 MLS MVP was kept pretty quiet by Bloom.
- Jones brings a different look to the Atlanta attack and gives the team more of an option to play direct. With Josef Martinez or Villalba up top, Atlanta needs to play them into space to be most effective. With Jones, the defense can relieve pressure by playing direct to Jones for him to hold the ball up or flick it on to midfielders running through.
- Alec Kann got his hand to Piatti’s penalty kick, but couldn’t get enough on it to make the save.
- Prior to the red card, Gonzalez Pirez was putting in another excellent performance. The young Argentine is proving to be one of the best center backs in MLS.
- Real Salt Lake fired manager Jeff Cassar after three games this season. Mike Petke is now in charge and has won two straight. RSL came from behind with two goals in the final five minutes on the road in Colorado Saturday night to win 2-1.