An early red card made things pretty easy for Atlanta United against the Vancouver Whitecaps in their second home match of the year.
Kendall Waston was sent off just 14 minutes into the match, forcing Vancouver to play a man down for the overwhelming majority of the game. The infraction also set up Josef Martinez for the opening goal from the spot as Atlanta cruised past the Whitecaps by a 4-1 score.
This match was turned on its head within the first quarter hour of play. In the eighth minute of play, an Atlanta United free kick resulted in a dangerous chance for Franco Escobar, but it also saw Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez writing on the floor of the penalty area after taking a Waston elbow to the face.
Referee Ismail Elfath went to the Video Assistant Referee for a second look and came back to brandish a red card for Waston, and give Atlanta a penalty. Six minutes after the initial play, Martinez slotted the penalty home to give his side a 1-0 lead.
Despite the man advantage, Atlanta didn’t make the most of the many opportunities they created. Each time they came near a goal, the final pass was off target or the shot was wayward. The most egregious example was a three-on-one break around th 35 minute mark that saw Josef Martinez’s pass completely miss its mark and bumble away for a harmless goal kick.
At the end of the first half, Atlanta held a 70% advantage in possession and outshot the Caps 10-1, but only had the lone penalty goal to show for it.
Atlanta’s inefficiency in front of goal continued in the second half and it took an own goal for them to double their lead. Another transition move in the 58th minute ended with a Julian Gressel cross taking two deflections of Vancouver defenders, the second of which went off Aaron Maund and into the gaping net.
They didn’t have to wait long for a third however. Just two minutes after it went 2-0, Martinez was sprung down the middle with no Caps defender in sight and he calmly slipped a low shot past Stefan Marinovic.
Vancouver did pick up an 85th minute consolation goal thanks to Erik Hurtado, but any hope of a comeback was destroyed by Martinez picking up his hat trick with an 88th minute header.
Next up for the Five Stripes is a trip to TCF Bank Stadium to take on Minnesota United in two weeks. Vancouver gets no such break. They are back in action next Saturday night when they host the LA Galaxy.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Josef Martinez had yet another hat trick as he bagged three of the four Atlanta goals.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
The VAR awarded red card in the 14th minute didn’t exactly take Vancouver out of the game, but they certainly weren’t up for attacking, or defending, after that pivotal moment.
MATCH TO FORGET
Kendall Waston won’t have much to forget, but he will want to pretend the eight minutes of play he saw at the beginning of the match never existed. It was his elbow that caught Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez in the face and resulted in a straight red card, the penalty that provided the opening goal, and forced his team to play down a defender for pretty much the entire match.