Atlanta United Take Supporters’ Shield Lead Behind Miguel Almirón and Kevin Kratz

MLS 2018: Montreal Impact at Atlanta United game action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, GA. (Photo by Drew Dinwiddie / fi360 News)
MLS 2018: Kevin Kratz celebrates after a free kick to the back of the net goal during the Montreal Impact at Atlanta United game action at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, GA. (Photo by Drew Dinwiddie / fi360 News)

Atlanta, GA – Atlanta United beat Montreal Impact 4-1 behind braces from Miguel Almirón and Kevin Kratz before a sold-out crowd of 45,039 fans. Atlanta extended its unbeaten streak to 7 games and points total to 19 from 8 matches, leading the Supporters’ Shield race at least temporarily.

In the 74thminute, coach Tata Martino made what turned out to be a timely substitution, bringing on Kevin Kratz for Greg Garza. 3 minutes later, Kratz placed a golazo of a free kick from just outside the box, over the wall and into the top left corner, to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead. The goal marked Kratz’s first of the season.

“It felt pretty good, and I’m happy to help the team,” said Kratz. Atlanta ran away with the match from there.

As an encore, Kratz bettered his first golazo by placing a second free kick just inside the left post from 35 yards out, to finish off the Montreal Impact in the final minute of stoppage time. The goal capped off a wide open second half that Atlanta played at pace running at Montreal.

Atlanta’s pace and skill showed in the team’s third goal, in which Miguel Almirón sprinted through the center of midfield, before placing a pass to Josef Martinez who back-heeled the return for Almirón to slot into the bottom left corner. The goal marked his second of the match and sixth of the season, tying him with teammate Josef Martinez for the MLS lead.

The first half played out differently. Montreal kept a tight back line in a 4-4-2 in defense with the midfield playing deep. The Impact struck first in the thirteenth minute with a header Saphir Taïder shot left to right across Brad Guzan. Chris Duvall drove up the right flank before crossing the ball in for the assist.

Though Atlanta maintained 77% of the first-half possession, they were unable to break down the Montreal defense and the half ended 1-0 in favor of Montreal.

“The opponent really closed things down, so we just had to keep that same patience and work to keep trying to find a goal,” said Miguel Almirón.

Coach Tata Martino substituted Tito Villalba in for midfielder Jeff Larentowicz at halftime, Villalba’s first minutes returning from a leg injury.

The move added to the attack, allowed Villalba to play as the second striker alongside Martinez in the 3-5-2, and moved Ezequiel Barco back into the midfield to play with Almirón.

Barco described “when Tito came on, Tata asked me to move back a little bit to the same level as Miguel, and that way we could focus on controlling the midfield and be able to provide service to Julian, Josef, and Tito up top.”

Next, Montreal, currently ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, will look to improve in hosting the New England Revolution next Saturday, May 5th. That Saturday Atlanta travels to Chicago to face the Fire. Atlanta currently leads MLS in goals scored at 21 and goal differential at +12.