ATLANTA (WCMH) — The Columbus Crew could not close out its first round series against Atlanta United Tuesday night as the Black & Gold fell 4-2 in Game 2 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
In a must-win situation, Atlanta stepped up to the mark with two first-half goals that included a go-ahead strike from Xande Silva late in stoppage time. Two late second-half goals from Edwin Mosquera and Thiago Almada sealed the win and forced a Game 3 back in Columbus.
The Crew will host Atlanta at 7 p.m. on Sunday from Lower.com Field in the series decider. The winner will move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals and face either Orlando City or Nashville SC.
Columbus had one change in the starting eleven with Sean Zawadzki coming in for Yaw Yeboah. Atlanta saw the return of star playmaker Thiago Almada, who was suspended for game one after receiving a red card at the end of the regular season.
The first 10 minutes were fairly even between the two sides with only one shot for each team during that span. Atlanta then began to control possession and try slow, fluid attacks but could not generate too many clear cut opportunities.
Columbus’ first good chance came in the 25th minute as Cucho headed the ball back across the face of goal. No one got a final touch to test Brad Guzan it a cagey first half for the Black & Gold.
Atlanta broke the deadlock in the 38th minute as Giorgos Giakoumakis connected on a header from a Brooks Lennon cross to make 1-0. The Greek striker for the Five Stripes was completely unmarked in the box for his first MLS Cup Playoffs goal.
Out of nowhere, Columbus equalized just before halftime as the Crew capitalized on a miss touch by Atlanta in its own half. Diego Rossi dribbled towards the box and passed to Cucho, whose first touch set up an easy finish past Guzan to make it 1-1. It was Hernandez’s sixth goal vs. Atlanta in four career games.
Atlanta United stunned the Crew with a go-ahead goal in the final seconds of stoppage time of the first half. A quick counter attack that ended with a powerful finesse goal from an on running Xande Silva sent the Atlanta crowd wild. Silva’s celebration included the donning of a Spider-Man mask as the Five Stripes entered the tunnel up 2-1.
In the 61st minute, Atlanta should have made it 3-1 as Silva missed a sitter. Giakoumakis was through on goal with Silva across from him with no one in front of him. Silva missed the open net and hit it over the bar.
Columbus pushed for that second equalizer throughout the second half and upped its tempo in the last 15 minutes of the half but any chance of winning the series was dashed in the 83rd minute.
Atlanta put the icing on the cake with a clinical strike from Edwin Mosquera from inside the box to make it 3-1. Thiago Almada put the cherry on top five minutes later with a daft chip over Patrick Schulte, sealing the game at 4-1.
The Crew added a garbage time goal in the fifth minute of added time in the second-half as Max Arfsten converted a shot from a corner kick.