Julian Gressel had a goal and an assist as Atlanta United FC defeated visiting Real Salt Lake 2-0 Saturday.
Atlanta (19-5-6, 63 points) retained its four-point edge over the New York Red Bulls in the race for the Supporters’ Shield, which goes to the team with the best regular-season record in MLS.
Real Salt Lake (13-11-6, 45) had their four-match unbeaten string snapped and lost for just the second time in their past 10 games.
Gressel opened the scoring in the 37th minute with his third goal of the season, assisted by Miguel Almiron.
Almiron dribbled the ball down the left wing to the touchline and crossed it to Gressel near the top right corner of the 18-yard box. Gressel settled the ball with a chest trap and struck a volley into the left side netting, past the reach of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Atlanta made it 2-0 in the 61st minute, as Hector Villalba took a throw-in from Gressel at the top of the 18-yard box and blasted a half-volley that went off the right post and ricocheted off Rimando’s back and into the net. The play was set up by a brilliant fake from forward Josef Martinez, the league’s leading scorer, who ducked Gressel’s throw-in and allowed it to bounce to an open Villalba. It was the team-leading 14th assist of the season for Gressel, one behind Philadelphia’s Borek Dockal, who tops MLS.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan made three saves to post his eighth shutout of the season, matching the franchise record he set in 2017 in Atlanta’s expansion year.
Defender George Bello, a 16-year-old homegrown player, made his first start for Atlanta. The native of Douglasville, Ga., received a rousing ovation at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when he was replaced in the 73rd minute.
Real Salt Lake’s Rimando, the league’s career leader in shutouts, made six saves.
RSL defender Marcelo Silva (ankle) and midfielder Kyle Beckerman (hamstring) both played despite being listed as questionable for the match.
—Field Level Media