This may not have been the battle of the titans that many had believed before the season started, but it was a big matchup for both LAFC and Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium nonetheless. Both sides were focused on turning their seasons around, and a win would go a long way in sparking that turnaround. In the end, Josef Martinez powered Atlanta to a 1-0 win on Sunday.
With Eddie Segura out the rest of the season, the LAFC defense has gone through some changes as head coach Bob Bradley searches for the right combination at the back. In this game, it was 19-year-old Mamadou Fall making his MLS debut.
The first half was about as equal it could get, and not just on the scoresheet. Both finished the half with seven shots, and each side had their goalkeeper come up big to keep it scoreless by the end of the half. Tomas Romero had several highlight moments, but none bigger than his save in the 35th minute.
The best chance of the half came via LAFC, when the debutant Fall got his head on the end of a perfectly placed free kick from Eduard Atuesta. The far post nod-in would have marked his first MLS goal, but a trip to VAR ruled him offside, by paper-thin margins. The decision would come back to haunt them almost immediately.
Atlanta United got the second half started with a bang when they took the lead in just the 47th minute. Martinez, who dealt with injuries the last couple of seasons, scored his first goal at home in almost two years, to give his side the second half lead.
The black-and-gold were the better team in the second half. Setting the tempo, and controlling possession, but as has been the story all season, they couldn't put it together in the final third. In a match with the last three Golden Boot winners, one goal would be all Atlanta needed for the win. Even if you feel the overturned goal was wrong, the inability to finish has plagued LAFC all season.
The loss extends the winless streak to six, and makes it two straight losses in this short road trip. They finish with one more on the road, against Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. At this point, the goal for LAFC has to be just to get into the postseason, any way possible.
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