Atlanta caps dream season with MLS Cup title over Portland
ATLANTA -- Josef Martinez scored and had an assist to cap an incredible season and help Atlanta United win the 2018 MLS Cup with a 2-0 victory over the visiting Portland Timbers on Saturday night, Dec. 8.
Martinez, who set an MLS record with 31 regular season goals while earning the league's Landon Donovan MVP award, added four more in the postseason to go with his one assist in the cup final. He was also selected as MVP of Saturday's match.
Franco Escobar also scored for Atlanta, which became the quickest team to win a league title after their inaugural season since the Chicago Fire did it during their 1998 expansion campaign. United joined the league as an expansion team in 2017.
Brad Guzan needed to make only three saves to preserve Atlanta's third playoff shutout in five matches after keeping eight clean sheets in 33 regular season games. That performance helped deny Portland a second MLS Cup in front of an playoff record crowd of 73,019 at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
After believing he had drawn a penalty kick earlier in the first half, Martinez scored from the run of play in the 39th minute on an opportunistic moment that stemmed from Portland trying to play out of its own end.
After Jeremy Ebobisse controlled a pass forward with his first touch, he was dispossessed by Atlanta defender Michael Parkhurst's slide tackle as he tried to take a second touch.
The ball rolled into the penalty area, where Martinez snarled the ball away from defender Liam Ridgewell, rounded goalkeeper Jeff Attinella and then finished into an open net.
Atlanta then doubled its lead nine minutes after the break from set piece. Miguel Almiron took the long diagonal free kick and found Martinez's head near the penalty spot.
Instead of redirecting an effort toward Attinella's goal, Martinez sent a glancing header to the back post, where Escobar hammered in a first-time sliding finish.
Martinez was rewarded for his efforts when he was pulled by outgoing coach Tata Martino in the 76th minute to a raucous ovation from the home crowd. Almiron, who is rumored to be heading to the English Premier League following the season, was afforded the same luxury in the 90th minute.