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Martinez’s goal leads Atlanta United past Orlando FC

(Image:Twitter/@ATLUTD)

Pity Martinez scored his long-awaited first MLS goal early in the first half and Atlanta United held on for a 1-0 victory over Orlando City SC on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Martinez’s goal came in his ninth MLS appearance, after the 2018 South American Footballer of the Year moved to Atlanta (5-3-2, 17 points) from Argentine giant River Plate this offseason for a reported $17 million transfer fee.

The 25-year-old Martinez had been billed as the replacement for playmaker Miguel Almiron, who had moved to Newcastle United in England following Atlanta’s run to the 2018 MLS Cup title.

Winger Julian Gressel had a second goal waved off for offside following a video review, but United still preserved their fourth consecutive victory. Justin Meram made his Atlanta debut in second-half stoppage time after arriving in a trade from Columbus earlier this week.

Orlando (3-5-3, 12 points) was without its own superstar, with Portuguese midfielder Nani unavailable with a late calf strain for his club’s fourth-all time trip to their Southeastern rivals.

The Lions still haven’t won at Mercedez-Benz, and have lost two straight overall.

Martinez put Atlanta in front in the 14th minute after sparking an incisive transition attack by finding Hector Villalba down the left.

Villalba returned a pass near the penalty arc, and Martinez unleashed a first-time shot that sailed beyond Brian Rowe’s dive and into the top right corner.

Atlanta continued on the front foot for most of the half, but twice nearly were caught on the counter.

Dom Dwyer should’ve finished his 33rd-minute opportunity when Ruan picked him out in front of goal with a perfect cross from the right. But Dwyer stuck his sliding effort across goal and into the path of Brad Guzan’s scrambling dive.

Then moments before halftime, Will Johnson got to Alex De John’s cross near the penalty spot, but Guzan reacted well to deny Johnson’s volley.

Gressel looked to have punished Orlando’s wastefulness when he put away another cross from Villalba, but Villalba was ruled offside in the buildup after review.

The visitors applied more pressure late but created only a few clear chances. Their best may have come in the 80th minute, when Tesho Akindele smashed his effort from just inside the area directly at Guzan.

–Field Level Media

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