United survives, wins 4-2 to force a pivotal game 3

Striker Giorgos Giakoumakis celebrates after scoring a goal against the Colombus Crew. The 2023 MLS Newcomer of the Year starred in the 4-2 win, chipping in two assists alongside the score. / Photo courtesy of Atlanta United

After a disappointing performance in Columbus, Atlanta United was looking to bounce back in Mercedes-Benz Stadium to even the series against the Columbus Crew at one-a-piece. The Five Stripes capitalized early and often to win the match 4-2. Atlanta was led by Greek striker Giorgos Giakoumakis who notched a goal and two assists. Alongside Giakoumakis, Portuguese winger Xande Silva, Colombian winger Edwin Mosquera and Argentinian midfielder Thiago Almada contributed to Atlanta United’s goals. The win pushes Atlanta to the verge of the next round, needing a win in Columbus to secure a spot in the conference semifinals for the first time since 2019’s run. 

After the loss in the first game of the playoffs, Atlanta United played a full strength line up, being led by captain and goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The defense consisted of Caleb Wiley, Luis Abram, Miles Robinson and Brooks Lennon. The midfield included Tristan Muyumba, Matheus Rossetto and Almada. Atlanta United was led by forwards Saba Lobjanidze, Silva and Giakoumakis. Head coach Gonzalo Pineda needed a big performance from the whole team in order to force a pivotal Game Three in Columbus.

Atlanta United started the game off well, creating multiple good chances while also limiting the threat of the Crew. The 17s had the first breakthrough thanks to Giakoumakis in the 38th minute as he headed in a perfect Lennon cross to make the score 1-0 in favor of Atlanta United. Columbus equalized just seven minutes later to tie the match at one. Four minutes later, in the fourth minute of first half stoppage time, the Five Stripes would take the lead once again thanks to Silva, who smashed in a perfectly weighted pass from Giakoumakis to take momentum into halftime, up 2-1.

The 17s started off the second half very well, controlling possession of the ball. The most notable chance of the half was an unselfish ball from Giakoumakis, but Silva mishandled the ball, and the score remained at 2-1. Coach Pineda made some game changing subs in the second half with Mosquera entering the game in the 80th minute, and he would add to Atlanta United’s lead just three minutes later. Mosquera started off the move by darting through the Columbus defense and then played a beautiful 1-2 with Giakoumakis to perfectly set himself up to guide the ball into the Columbus net, making the score 3-1. Just five minutes later, Wiley set Almada through on goal, who chipped the keeper to give Atlanta United a resounding 4-1 lead. Columbus would claw a goal back in the dying moments of the game to make the score 4-2 but the result was no less impressive.

Giakoumakis provided a goal and two assists, making him the first Atlanta United player to have three goal contributions in a single MLS Cup playoff game. Outside of his goal contributions, Giakoumakis held the ball up for his teammates and starred as the first line of Atlanta United’s press. He showed why he deserved the 2023 MLS Newcomer of the Year on the biggest stage of the season. 

Muyumba was everywhere on the pitch, completing the second most passes on the team overall. He powered the middle of Atlanta United’s midfield. Almada provided the team with a goal, showing the class which earned him MLS Young Player of the Year. Saba constantly threatened on the right flank as an attacking outlet. After working himself into the game,  he wreaked havoc. 

After a dominant 4-2 victory, Atlanta United proved they can take down Columbus Crew and advance to the next round of the MLS cup playoffs. The final match of the first round will take place on Nov. 12 in Columbus, Ohio, at Historic Crew Stadium.