RECAP- Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers played their first home action of the 2021 season, taking on Alajulense and CD Marathón respectively. Atlanta United advanced with a late winner in the second leg cementing their spot in the CCL Quarterfinals. The Timbers got out to a hot start as well and put away Marathón inside the first hour of the match.
Atlanta, Portland advance to CCL Quarterfinals
Atlanta 1 (2), Alajulense 0 (0)
Atlanta United’s first-leg win against Alajulense while down to ten men really showed what Gabriel Henze’s team was going to be like from the get-go. They worked hard to defend and were electric going forward. While they were managing the result more so at the beginning of the match, they came to life in the second. Jürgen Damm scored the winner when Ezekiel Barco found himself streaking into the space behind the backline. Damm timed his run to stay onside and was able to put home Barcos half pass, half bad touch.
It wasn’t easy for Atlanta though. A scrappy Alajulense side created plenty of chances despite missing many players due to Visa issues. They created plenty of chances to score including one golden chance, where 18-year-old Rocco Rios Novo had to make a reactionary kick save. After a second 4-day contract, Atlanta may want to sign him up full-time considering the two performances he put in.
Alajulense’s visa issues may certainly have clouded their chances. 7 key players were unable to travel due to what the club called “Overly restrictive” Visa requirements by the US government. However, the picture they painted was through red and black goggles. CONCACAF released a statement saying it was the club’s fault for not even applying for the Visa’s until days before the match.
"LD Alajuelense did not apply for the required exemptions until the day of their travel, only two days before the match" pic.twitter.com/MqpYDRkENi
— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) April 13, 2021
CD Marathón certainly made the first leg interesting, able to peg back for a goal every time the Timbers scored. But in the second leg, they had zero answers to the Timbers attack as Yimmi Chará’s hat-trick paced the Timbers to a route. Steve Clark had a few nervy moments but it was straightforward. Chara scored twice in the first half, and Diego Valeri and Marvin Loria scored in the second half, sandwiching Chara’s third of the match.
What’s next for Atlanta, Portland?
Portland and Atlanta are on the same side of the CONCACAF Champions League bracket. Portland will most likely face off against Club América in the Quarterfinals, while Atlanta are destined to face the winner of the Philadelphia Union and Saprissa tie. At the moment, it looks like three of the final four teams on the right side of the bracket will be MLS squads.