New on Sports Illustrated: Atlanta finally scores, Martinez brace beats Nashville 2-0

August 23, 2020 at 06:45AM

ATLANTA (AP) Pity Martinez scored two goals and Atlanta United broke a scoreless drought of more than five months and the longest losing streak in franchise history with a 2-0 victory over Nashville SC on Saturday night.

Playing in empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which looked downright eerie considering the team has set numerous Major League Soccer attendance records, United (3-3-0) earned a much-needed win in its first game under interim coach Stephen Glass.

Atlanta snapped a three-game MLS losing streak and a four-game skid across all competitions, beating expansion Nashville (1-3-1) for its first win since a 2-1 triumph over Cincinnati on March 7.

In the 40th minute, Eric Remedi delivered a towering, pinpoint pass that covered roughly half the field and hit Martinez in stride, allowing him to shake off a defender and sprint down the left wing. Nashville's Walker Zimmerman came over to challenge just inside the area, but Martinez sent him right on by with a nifty cut to the inside, leaving a clear look at goal from about 8 yards away.

Martinez beat Joe Willis with a left-footed flick, ending a 435-minute scoring drought for United, playing its first game in more than a month to open the second phase of MLS' reopening.

Martinez completed the brace with his second goal in the 87th, ripping a shot from 18 yards away that beat Willis in the upper left corner.

In Atlanta's most recent win before Saturday, more than 69,000 fans turned out for the team's MLS home opener. Of course, the world has changed greatly since that match, and so has United.

Four days later, Atlanta was routed 3-0 in the CONCACAF Champions League by Mexican powerhouse Club America - the last match before a four-month shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The league finally returned to the field with the MLS Is Back tournament near Orlando. Atlanta United turned in a dismal performance, losing three straight games by 1-0 scores.

Shortly after returning to Atlanta, the team parted ways with second-year coach Frank de Boer. Glass, who had been coaching Atlanta United 2 in the USL Championship, was promoted to the head job while the front office searches for a permanent replacement.

Hoping to shake up a team that looked all of sync after three wildly successful seasons, Glass vowed to the instill a more offensive-minded approach. United finally found the back of the net, though the only cheers came from taped fan noise piped into the massive stadium.

Atlanta United will not have any fans at home at least through the end of September, a huge blow for a franchise that averaged more than 52,000 fans per game in league play last season.

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