ATLUTD's 5 Most Important Goals
by Jarrett Smith
Atlanta United has scored a lot of goals. A lot of goals. Even if you take out the rough and weird time that was 2020, they have not had many problems. A lot of that has come from Josef Martinez scoring at an unheard of pace in MLS and featuring Miguel Almiron (somehow who is still somehow under appreciated during his time in Atlanta.)
All of that said, not all goals are created the same. Some carry more weight than others, both in the meaning of the game, the season and the impact of stress that you carry in your tired soul. So let’s see the ones that matter to me the most. I encourage you to do the same.
5. Jacob Peterson - at SKC - 2017
The answer was just that on a night in the middle of the 2017 season. Up to this point, his biggest moment was providing the killing blow to Vadim Dimidov and Minnesota in the snow, but Peterson collected a loose ball after Brandon Vasquez brought down a long ball and slotted it away in extra time to steal a point. It wasn’t Atlanta’s first stolen road point, but it was the first time they had done so late in the game and, more importantly, proved they had the depth to pressure experienced sides and make them feel like they let one get away.
4. Josef Martinez - at San Jose -2018
You don’t need me to rehash this game. It was beautiful chaos and full MLS After Dark where goals came from everywhere and no one knew how VAR or linear time worked. Every championship season in every sport has “That Moment” where you knew, you just knew that it was special. This was that in spades. A game that went from 4-1 San Jose to 4-3 Atlanta. It was perfect and when you look back at the gif it just get inevitable. Once Josef Martinez starts floating around a solo defender in the box and there’s a cross coming we all know what is happening. It’s just a matter of if it’s a near post finish or far post.
3. Tito Villalba - vs Orlando City - 2017
For the rest of Atlanta’s existence, we should make sure the legend of Bobby Dodd never dies. A narrow field in a stadium that couldn’t efficiently hold its capacity in the tunnels or the concession stands where storm delays happened more often than shutouts. The place took Tata Martino’s Mad Max style and put it in a dark alley.
On the last day of its time hosting the Five Stripes, Kaku produced a moment of beauty and looked like he was going to give Orlando their first win in the rivalry, but the defense went to sleep and Tito Villalba cemented himself on the revenge list of every Orlando fan. Tito’s had helped carry the attack without Josef Martinez (seriously, did we truly comprehend what Josef was fully in 2017 due to his lack of games?) but this was another late finish that removed any doubt that Atlanta would fight to the final whistle. Those days at Bobby Dodd were hot and oppressive and games were wild. But this will be a lasting memory for many. A reminder to Orlando that they would have to wait until 2020 to get their first series win.
2. Franco Escobar - MLS Cup 2018
Welcome to Atlanta sports. We don’t always do well with prosperity. Atlanta United has gone a long way to change the doom and gloom mentality for many but even when they were favored and winning in MLS Cup there was still tension. Diego Chara refused to let Portland get beat in the run of play but Playoff Franco did Playoff Franc truly became a thing in that moment when he redirected a header off a free kick into the net.
Go back and watch that game, specifically this stretch. Portland was burning all the fuel to find an equalizer up to this moment and just like that the wind was completely out of their sails. Franco Escobar made sure Atlanta would win MLS Cup. And the only thing bigger than that was
5. Tito Villalba - vs Red Bulls- ECF 2018
Getting to the cup.
Clearly I care nothing for anyone’s emotional well-being, digging up Franco and Tito like this but he made sure that Atlanta’s boogeyman would fall in the biggest moment. Villalba’s 2018 season was an up and down affair with injuries and struggles to go along with some stunning moments (let’s talk about his solo run and goal against Columbus and how it’s not talked about nearly enough) but he damn near scored three goals in 10 minutes that night against the Red Bulls. The one he did score took the series from “Atlanta is in great shape here” to “The next 90 minutes are just a formality”.
Every team has their postseason rivals that they struggle to get past. LAFC have Seattle, New England have title games and Orlando have red cards, for example. If you want the big trophy you are more than likely going to be asked to win games you probably have not won before, and given how the MLS season plays out, you are more than likely going to have to do it in uncomfortable conditions. The MLS playoffs are a round of Guitar Hero on Expert where every song is new and your comfort level will drop through each verse.
NYRB was the hill that Atlanta just could not get over until they did. They were Dragonforce on Expert. Atlanta just took it upon themselves to finally triumph with a 70 thousand watching and Tito was the freestyle at the end for bonus points.
(photo credit: @ATLUTD)