Atlanta United picked up three huge points at home against CF Montreal, triumphing 4-1 to book their place in the 2023 MLS Cup playoffs.
The Five Stripes had one thing on their minds heading into the clash, while the visitors were aiming to keep their postseason hopes alive with a triumph of their own. After knocking on the door for the first 30 minutes, Atlanta finally took their chances and found the back of the net twice in three minutes.
Xande Silva, who was Atlanta’s best player in the first half, was on the receiving end of a cross from Saba Lobjanidze and made no mistake from a few yards in front of goal. It was Silva’s third goal for his new club, as Lobjandize registered his fourth assist for the Five Stripes.
Moments later, the home side doubled their lead after Caleb Wiley played Silva through to Montreal’s penalty box. The 26-year-old winger dribbled around the Canadian side’s defense before going around goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois to findThiago Almada, who fired home from close range.
But the visitors responded shortly after. An over-the-top through ball played by Lassi Lappalainen caught the Atlanta backline sleeping, inspiring the Finland international to notch an assist with playing the excellent cut-back pass to Ahmed Hamdi. Hamdi’s left footed strike finished off the play, leaving goalkeeper Brad Guzan nothing to do at that point.
Atlanta went into the break up 2-1, and they came out in the second 45 searching for more.
After Montreal were trying to play out from the back, Silva’s pressing led to a loose ball that Giorgos Giakoumakis pounced on and chipped over Sirois to send the fans in Atlanta into a frenzy. The goal was disallowed at first, but after a quick VAR review, referee Rubiel Vazquez confirmed that Giakoumakis did score his 15th goal of the 2023 campaign to help Atlanta to a 3-1 lead.
Summer signing Jamal Thiare came off the bench to make his debut for Atlanta and nearly got on the scoresheet before he was brough down by Montreal’s Joel Waterman, who was already on a yellow card. However, Vazquez immediately reached into his pocket and showed Waterman a straight red card as he was the last defender.
Even though Thiare was pulled down to stop an attack, the Five Stripes prevailed and found their fourth of the game after a quick counter attack saw Thiago Almada play a cut-back pass to substitute Edwin Mosquera, who found the back of the net with a bit of a luck on his powerful strike.
Atlanta, now in fifth place in the Eastern Conference table with 49 points from 31 games played, will shift their focus on finishing inside the top four to ensure home field advantage in the postseason. On the other hand, Montreal are now in eight place in the East with 37 points and have just four games remaining to fight for their playoff spot.
GK: Brad Guzan – 7/10 – Was good with his distribution and couldn’t have done much for the conceded goal after there were doubts . Also dug deep for a huge save in the final 15 minutes.
RB: Brooks Lennon – 6/10 – The 26-year-old didn’t get involved as much with the attack as we’re used to seeing but still had a sound night.
CB: Miles Robinson – 7/10 – A solid outing for the USMNT figure and he came up with a crucial block early on to deny Montreal a chance.
CB: Luis Abram – 6.5/10 – Like Rossetto, he too has experienced a resurgence in the side since the league’s restart in mid-August.
LB: Caleb Wiley – 7/10 – Was everywhere in defense and attack, and was key in the buildup to Atlanta’s second goal.
DM: Tristan Muyumba – 7/10 – It seems as if Muyumba can do no wrong in an Atlanta shirt with his ability to win balls back and exceptional dribbling.
DM: Matheus Rossetto – 6/10 – Continues to impress with his revamped role in the middle of the park.
RW: Saba Lobjanidze – 7.5/10 – Constantly a threat down the right-wing and continues to rack up goal involvements.
AM: Thiago Almada – 8/10 – The 2022 World Cup winner had a relatively quiet first half but made his mark after scoring from close range and grabbed an assist late on.
LW: Xande Silva – 9/10 – Atlanta’s best player in the first 45, and his pressing led to an early second half goal for Giakoumakis. Racked up one goal and one assist on the night and just might be the signing of the summer in the eyes of Atlanta supporters.
ST: Giorgos Giakoumakis – 7.5/10 – Was strong in the buildup for his side and held the ball up excellently on several occasions while scoring his 15th goal of the season to remain in the Golden Boot race.
DM: Ajani Fortunte (71′ for Tristan Muyumba) – 6/10 – Helped shore up the midfield in the latter stages.
RW: Edwin Mosquera (71′ for Saba Lobjanidze): 7/10 – Provided a spark off the bench and got on the scoresheet in the latter stages.
ST: Jamal Thiare (83′ for Giorgos Giakoumakis) – 6.5/10 – Came off the bench for his debut and would’ve had a chance at goal if he weren’t brought down by Waterman.
LW: Tyler Wolff (83′ for Xande Silva) – 6.5/10 – In his limited time on the pitch, he showed glimpses of promise with some nice passing.
DM: Amar Sejdic (90′ for Matheus Rossetto) – N/A
Gonzalo Pineda – 10/10 – He chose Atlanta’s strongest possible XI, and outside of the conceded goal, it was a huge success.
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