Emerson Hyndman scores game-winning goal, first of MLS career; Atlanta clinches top four spot in Eastern Conference, at least one home playoff match
A pair of late goals from Emerson Hyndman and Pity Martinez lifted Atlanta United to a 3-1 victory over San Jose Earthquakes Saturday in front of 43,451 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. For Hyndman, it was his first career MLS goal, while Justin Meram added his fourth of the season. The win clinched a top four spot in the Eastern Conference, guaranteeing at least one home match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. Fans can visit www.atlutd.com/tickets for more information.
Atlanta wasted no time and grabbed the lead in the 4th minute. Darlington Nagbe intercepted a pass on the right side and quickly found Josef Martinez at the top of the box where he backheeled it to Pity Martinez. The Argentine took a touch before having it poked away by a San Jose defender, but Meram ran onto the loose ball and unleashed a right-footed strike that took a slight deflection and flew into the center of the goal.
San Jose equalized in the 27th minute from an own goal. Daniel Vega played a long ball for Cristian Espinoza down the right side where he dribbled toward the end line before sending in a low cross at the near post, but it deflected off Brad Guzan and rolled into the net. However, Espinoza was sent off just seven minutes later after he picked up his second yellow card of the match when he stepped on Franco Escobar.
Atlanta nearly regained the lead in first half stoppage time when Meram sent in a cross from left side. An Earthquakes defender miss-hit his clearance and it fell to Hyndman on the doorstep, but he lifted his shot just over the crossbar.
But it was Hyndman’s heroics that picked up all three points. In the 90th minute, Nagbe made a long run from midfield and played a through ball for Hyndman on the edge of the box. The midfielder took a touch, then blasted a right-footed shot into the upper left corner to give Atlanta the lead.
Pity Martinez doubled the lead just two minutes later. On a counterattack against just three San Jose defenders, Tito Villalba played Brandon Vazquez through along the left wing. Vazquez immediately crossed for a wide-open Martinez, who was in alone with Vega, and ultimately slotted to the keeper’s left for a 3-1 lead.
Atlanta United (17-11-3, 54 points) returns to action Wednesday, Sept. 25 against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium (7:00 p.m. EST, FOX Sports South, Sports Radio 92-9 The Game).