Atlanta United falls to Columbus Crew SC in penalties

ATLANTA (Oct. 26, 2017) — Atlanta United fell to Columbus Crew SC 0-0 (3-1) in penalty kicks on Thursday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of an MLS postseason record 67,221 fans. Atlanta forced Columbus goalkeeper Zach Steffen to make a game-high eight saves in addition to hitting the woodwork twice, but Columbus ultimately won the match to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

“I think it was a good season. I can’t deny that it was a good season because we started from nothing,” Atlanta United head coach Tata Martino said. “But once we formed the team that we did, and with the players we had, that’s all we can classify it as: a good season. Because once the team was formed and with all of the talks we had amongst ourselves in the locker room, this team wanted to go a lot further.”

In a scoreless regulation, the two clubs combined for 34 shot attempts in a wildly entertaining first 90 minutes. Miguel Almiron hit the woodwork in the 11th minute with a blast from about 30 yards out that forced Steffen into a diving effort to make a partial save. Just nine minutes later, Steffen saved another screamer, this time from Chris McCann that the Columbus keeper pushed over the bar. On the other side, Brad Guzan made a huge kick-save in the 31st minute to deny Pedro Santos.

After halftime, perhaps Atlanta’s best chance came in the 65th minute from Leandro Gonzalez Pirez nearly heading home a free kick; however, Steffen made another diving save to his left. Then in the 72nd minute, Josef Martinez struck the upright after it looked like he had drilled home Tito Villalba’s cross from the right flank.

In extra time, the play of the night came from captain Michael Parkhurst who cleared a shot attempt from Harrison Afful off of the line in the 118th minute. Afful beat Guzan to a floating cross near the far post and his headed attempt seemed destined for the back of the net until Parkhurst cleared it at the last second.

“It was a great first season. I’m going to look back on it with a lot of pride, a lot of joy (and) a lot of great memories,” Parkhurst said. “It’s just amazing to play in front of this crowd on a weekly basis or a biweekly basis. It’s really indescribable. The amount of support that we’ve gotten throughout the season has just been fantastic and we couldn’t ask for more from the city of Atlanta. The people, the support that we’ve gotten – it’s been incredible. That’s what we’re going to remember most that we built this fan base.”

In penalties, Steffen made two more saves against Atlanta and the club ultimately fell 3-1.

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