Josef Martinez shines, Red Bulls topple Timbers
On a night with a condensed Major League Soccer schedule packed with playoff implications, the defending MLS Cup winners and current Supporters’ Shield holders both delivered crucial road wins.
Atlanta United took care of business in Cincinnati on a historic night for star-striker Josef Martínez, while the New York Red Bulls halted their recent losing skid with an important victory in Portland.
FC Dallas wasn’t able to halt its own winless slide, but did register a valuable road point after a goal-less draw in Seattle. That point helped Luchi Gonzalez’s squad move past the Timbers into the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Here is a closer look at Wednesday’s MLS action:
Atlanta 2, Cincinnati 0
(59′, 65′ Martínez)
The evening kicked off at Nippert Stadium, where Atlanta United bounced back against FC Cincinnati after unexpectedly falling to Columbus Crew last week.
Despite controlling 77% possession throughout the first half, Cincinnati was able to hang around until two-goal outburst from Josef Martínez in the second half.
For Martínez, the goals were historic as he now finds himself tied for second place in all-time world scoring streaks at 15 games. The goals also tighten up the league’s golden boot race, where he has pulled even with Zlatan Ibrahimovic with 25 goals, trailing Carlos Vela by only two for the league lead.
The goals were also historic for FC Cincinnati, but for far less inspiring reasons, as the second represented the 74th conceded on the season, which tied MLS’ all-time record set by Orlando City in 2017.
The victory helped Atlanta snap a two-match losing skid, and also move to within a point of the Philadelphia Union for second place in the Eastern Conference with four matches remaining.
Timbers 0, Red Bulls 2
(3′ Duncan, 90+’ Royer)
The Red Bulls halted a three-match losing streak with an impressive win at Providence Park, handing the Timbers their fourth loss in six matches.
It only took three minutes for Red Bulls defender Kyle Duncan to get his team off and running. He connected with a cross from Josh Sims and powered it in from the middle of the box.
The Timbers went on to absorb, but a crucial miss from Jeremy Ebobisse in the 81st minute wasted the home side’s best chance to equalize. A late penalty strike from Daniel Royer sealed a big win on the road and successful bounce-back performance after last week’s loss to the Seattle Sounders.
Luis Robles recorded three saves to post the shutout against a Timbers attack that has managed just four goals in their past six matches.
The Red Bulls moved to within a point of fourth-place Toronto FC and fifth-place D.C. United in the Eastern Conference standings ahead of a home clash with the Philadelphia Union.
The Timbers find themselves outside the playoff places in the West, one point behind seventh-place FC Dallas as they prepare to play host to Minnesota United on Sunday.
Sounders 0, Dallas 0
A win would have been nice for an FC Dallas team clinging to the bottom of the playoff spots. But after playing the Seattle Sounders to a vital 0-0 road draw at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday night, a point will do just fine.
The Sounders will surely be disappointed not to secure the full three points at home but did post a clean sheet after giving up seven goals in their last three games.
The Sounders took ever-increasing control of the match over the course of the second half, but could never find the back of the net.
Jordan Morris came on in the 73rd minute and saw arguably the best look of the match within moments of taking the pitch, latching onto a Joevin Jones cross at the far post but sending his shot into the side netting.
Both teams rested some key players and clearly had heavy legs after weekend matches. Each side put only three shots on target, and neither team forced either goalkeeper into a challenging save.
An uneventful first half lacked intensity. Jones nearly found Cristian Roldan with a cross to the top of the 6-yard box in the sixth minute, but that was as close as the Sounders would come for the rest of the half. FC Dallas began the match sitting organized and compact in defense and only sporadically pressing the hosts.
To make matters worse for the Sounders, Xavier Arreaga factored himself out of Sunday’s match with D.C. United after picking up a second yellow in the 86th minute.
FC Dallas will put its impressive 9-1-5 home record on the line on Sunday against red-hot New York City FC, which will enter the match riding a 6-0-1 run that has propelled NYCFC into first place in the East.