The Columbus Crew SC ended the storied first season of Atlanta United Thursday night, when the Crew outlasted the hosts, winning in the penalty shootout. Their victory sees them through to the second round of the 2017 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
Quiet First Half
The start of the first half began quietly. Both teams played a more possession based game during the first 20 minutes of the match, with neither really wanting to make the first mistake.
Atlanta had a good chance at goal, though, when midfielder Miguel Almiron ripped a shot from distance that hit off of the crossbar and bounced out. They gained more possession as time ran down and the home team were able to create more chances in the final minutes of the half.
Columbus was robbed of a goal in the 40th minute of play when Justin Meram found an apparently onside Pedro Santos. Santos then fed the ball to Ola Kamara, as Kamara made it 1-0. However, the goal was disallowed as Santos was flagged for a very controversial offside call.
Even More Quiet Second Half
The second half reflected the first as it started out quiet, once more. But near the end of regulation, things started intensifying started to heat up towards the end of the match.
Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen stood on his head in the second half, coming up big for Columbus when he was able to push away an on frame header away from goal.
At this point in the game, Columbus had deflated Atlanta.
To concur, Santos found Kekuta Manneh at the top of the 18-yard-box. Manneh took a shot that too kissed the crossbar and out. The ball fell to Santos who also took a shot one time, but his attempt went wide right of the net.
Extra Time Heats Up
As the first half of extra time came to a close, Harrison Afful almost gave a lifeline to Columbus. From a corner kick, Afful was able to get a wacky shot off with his left foot that almost went in, but hit the top of the crossbar.
The second half of extra time was just the same. Both teams were able to make good chances, but couldn't convert on any.
At the death, Afful was able to get his head on a ball that went past Guzan and headed it towards goal. Captain Michael Parkhurst didn't give up on the play and was able to save Atlanta United by clearing the ball off of the goal line to keep the game scoreless.
Match decided by penalty kicks
The match would be decided on penalty kicks. Atlanta would kick first, starting with Julian Gressel. After grabbing his hamstring early in the match, Gressel took the kick but was denied by Steffen.
Federico Higuain took the first kick for Crew SC and pulled off the infamous panenka on Brad Guzan giving Columbus a 1-0 lead.
Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was kicker number two for Atlanta. He too was denied by Steffen when his attempt went straight into the hands of the 22-year-old keeper.
Manneh took the next kick for Columbus but was saved by Guzan after a sloppy runup on the ball. That save kept Atlanta in the game, giving them a chance at glory.
Hector Villalba converted a kick for Atlanta that would put them back in the match, tying the shootout at 1-1.
Rookie midfielder Niko Hansen put Columbus back in front with his attempt, giving Crew SC a 2-1 lead.
Veteran Jeff Larentowicz stepped for the five stripes. His attempt was bounced off of the post and out, leaving the door wide open for Columbus to win the match.
That left Adam Jahn to put the game away for the Black and Gold. Jahn came on as a late substitution in extra time, and hadn't touched the ball. The pressure was on for the former San Jose Earthquakes forward as he was able to convert the spot kick past Guzan.
Columbus defeats Atlanta in Atlanta, to secure their spotbin the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. They will meet New York City FC on Tuesday at MAPFRE Stadium (8 pm EST) for the first leg.