Atlanta United didn’t look like the league’s best team Wednesday night.
But they still won.
Now Atlanta will look for a fifth win in six games when Real Salt Lake visits Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.
Atlanta rallied from a two-goal deficit Wednesday, getting the winner from Josef Martinez in second-half stoppage time to defeat host San Jose 4-3. The Earthquakes have the league’s worst record.
“I think it shows that the team had a lot of spirit ... and that’s what we can rescue from this game,” Atlanta coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said. “We’re able to fight back and get the comeback, but if we would have played like that against a team that is fighting on top of the table, I think we could have lost this game by a few goals. There are some things to work on.”
Atlanta (18-5-6, 60 points), which currently leads the race for the Supporters’ Shield that goes to the team with the league’s best record, will have to be better against Real Salt Lake (13-10-6, 45 points).
RSL has a four-match unbeaten streak and has lost just once in its past nine games.
Salt Lake is coming off a 1-1 tie at home last Saturday against Minnesota United, a result that snapped RSL’s three-match winning streak.
“It was a very weird game,” RSL coach Mike Petke said. “It was a weird atmosphere whether it was the smoke in the air (from wildfires in Utah), our week-off break, I don’t know. We certainly did enough to win that game.
“I always look forward to the next game and don’t harp on the past, but this one especially. It was crumpled up and thrown out. We’ll take the point and now it’s moving forward.”
Martinez has a league-record 30 goals for Atlanta, sparking the comeback with a penalty kick in the 70th minute Wednesday after a controversial video review. San Jose appeared to take a 4-1 lead in the 67th minute, but the goal was waved off after review concluded the Earthquakes had committed a handball in their own penalty box more than 90 seconds earlier.
Martinez’s subsequent penalty kick pulled Atlanta within 3-2.
“It had everything, that’s for sure,” Atlanta defender Michael Parkhurst said. “I’ve played in some crazy games, and that’s right up towards the top.”
Atlanta comes into Saturday’s match without anyone listed on the injury report, while RSL defender Marcelo Silva (ankle), forward Luis Silva (groin) and midfielder Kyle Beckerman (hamstring) are questionable.
This is the second all-time meeting between the teams, with Atlanta posting a 3-1 victory in April 2017 in Sandy, Utah.
—Field Level Media