A roller-coaster day for Atlanta United ended with a 2-2 draw with Toronto on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
After twice working its way into leads on goals by Yamil Asad and Josef Martinez, second place in the MLS East and a bye in the first round of the playoffs, goals by Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco pushed Atlanta United down into fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They finished the regular season with a 15-9-10 record.
The Five Stripes will host Columbus in the knockout round of the playoffs. The league will announce either Sunday night or Monday morning if that game will be Wednesday or Thursday. Atlanta United defeated Columbus in their two meetings.
The 71,874 tickets sold broke the record set by the team in September against Orlando City. That total means Atlanta United will average 48,200 tickets sold for its 17 home games this season, which breaks the MLS record of 44,247 set by Seattle in 2015, and the U.S. soccer record of 47,856 set by the Cosmos in 1978.
Atlanta United grabbed a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick by Asad in the 31st minute. The penalty was awarded after the use of VAR, which occurred several seconds after Drew Moor’s hand deflected a headed shot by Asad a few yards from goal. After the ball was played up field, referee Robert Sibiga stopped play and signaled that he wanted to review the Asad header. The goal, Asad’s seventh this season, temporarily moved Atlanta United into second place in the East.
Atlanta United had that lead because of two big saves by Brad Guzan, one with his left hand on a hard shot by Altidore in the 20th minute and later one with his right on a shot by Giovinco.
Toronto tied the game at 1-1 in the 60th minute on a goal by Altidore, who got by Michael Parkhurst, who appeared to sustain an injury trying to shield Altidore from the ball, and poked a shot past Guzan. The draw, combined with other results, dropped Atlanta United into fourth in the East.
Martino put Almiron in for Kevin Kratz as team trainers looked at Parkhurst. Almiron has missed the past four games after sustaining a hamstring injury in the first half of the win against Montreal.
Atlanta United grabbed a 2-1 lead on a goal by Martinez in the 74th minute off a pass from Hector Villalba. From deep on the right, Villalba put a pass on the 6-yard line that Martinez met at the front post and swiped into the goal with his right foot. It was Martinez’s 19th goal and Villalba’s 11th assist. The lead moved Atlatna United back into second in the East.
They didn’t stay there long.
Giovinco ripped a free kick into the upper left corner to beat Guzan at the near post and tie the game at 2-2 in the 84th minute. The kick was from 22 yards and dropped Atlanta United back into fourth.
SOUTHERN FRIED SOCCER PODCASTS