United takes down Montreal, earns playoff bid

Atlanta United players celebrate after a goal in their game against CF Montreal. The Five Stripes dominated the match in a 4-1 performance that successfully notched playoff berth for the team. // Photo courtesy of Atlanta United

After a disappointing draw on the road against DC United, Atlanta United was looking to bounce back against CF Montreal. Coach Gonzalo Pineda named a largely unchanged side compared to the last home match against Inter Miami, with the only change being midfielder Saba Lobjanidze coming in for midfielder Edwin Mosquera. The match was a complete performance from the Five Stripes, overcoming Montreal 4-1. Midfielder Xande Silva, midfielder Thiago Almada, striker Giorgos Giakoumakis and Mosquera scored goals.   Defender Caleb Wiley, Giakoumakis, Lobjanidze, Silva and Almada  made assists. The win clinched Atlanta United a spot in the playoffs, but the job is not yet done for the 17s.

Atlanta United started the game well, looking significantly more threatening than Montreal. Saba and Silva were by far the most dangerous players on the pitch. The pressure culminated in an Atlanta goal. Giakoumakis played a ball into Saba, who took a wonderful touch to then center the ball to Silva who made the score 1-0 Atlanta in the 30th minute. Atlanta’s second goal came just three minutes later, where Wiley fed Silva, who then rounded the keeper and crossed the ball into Almada, who guided the ball into the goal, making the score 2-0. Montreal would then pull a goal back just before the half to make the score 2-1 in favor of Atlanta.

The Five Stripes bounced back immediately once the second half kicked off. Giakoumakis scored off an errand back pass to make the score 3-1 in the 46th minute. Atlanta United continued to dominate the game and threaten the Montreal net. The pressure would only increase after defender Joel Waterman was sent off after he took down Atlanta striker Jamal Thiaré, who was open on a through pass near the goal. Mosquera would finish the game thanks to an Almada assist to make the score 4-1. The 17s dominated the game from start and thoroughly deserved the win.

The notable players from the game against Montreal were Wiley and Silva. Wiley has been a constant in the Atlanta lineup for the entire season and has quietly become a mainstay in the starting XI. With Wiley’s start against Montreal, he has officially made 53 appearances for Atlanta United, a record for a homegrown player for Atlanta United.

Silva has been an absolute revelation since joining Atlanta. He has scored two goals and notched two assists in five starts this season. His performance against Montreal once again showed his quality. His brilliant performance earned him a place in the MLS Team of the Matchday.

As for Giakoumakis, he notched a goal against Montreal, bringing his season tally up to 15, which has let him keep pace with the MLS lead. Almada picked up a goal and an assist, bringing his season tally to 10 goals and 16 assists. Almada is only the third player in Atlanta United history to accrue double digit goals and assists in a single season, joining Miguel Almirón and Tito Villalba. Almada’s performance also led to him being included in the Team of the Matchday for the sixth time this season.

The Five Stripes clinched the MLS playoffs for the fifth time in their seven year history. Everyone around the club wants more than just a playoffs appearance as Coach Pineda stated: “[clinching playoffs] is not even close to the main goal we have this year.”

Atlanta United next faces the Philadelphia Union on Oct. 4 in Philadelphia. Just three days later, Atlanta takes on Columbus in what will be the last regular season home match of the season. On Oct. 21, Atlanta United will take on FC Cincinnati to finish out the regular season. The Five Stripes are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference but just two points behind second place. Atlanta will have to finish the season out strong if they want to clinch a first round home playoff match.