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2018 MLS CUP: Atlanta United 2, Portland Timbers 0 Postgame Notes

December 9, 2018 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release

2018 MLS CUP

Atlanta United 2, Portland Timbers 0


Atlanta United 2 (Martínez 39; Escobar 54)

Portland Timbers 0

Att: 73,019

Atlanta United win MLS Cup for the first time, in just the second season of the club's history. They become the second expansion team in MLS history to win MLS Cup within two years of their formation.

Atlanta United striker Josef Martínez was named the MLS Cup MVP, becoming the fifth player in league history to win Landon Donovan MLS MVP honors and MLS Cup MVP honors in the same year.

2018 MLS Cup drew a crowd of 73,019 to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the record attendance for MLS Cup and the largest attendance for a standalone, single game of any type in MLS history.

Martínez scored the game-winning goal, the first goal of the game in the 39th minute, and added an assist. He is the third player in MLS Cup history to score a goal and add an assist in the same final (also: Dwayne De Rosario, HOU, 2007; Tony Sanneh, DC, 1997).

Martínez became the second player in MLS Cup history to score a goal in the final in the same year winning the Golden Boot (also: Carlos Ruiz, LA, 2002).

Martinez ended the year with 35 goals from all competitions (31 regular season, 4 MLS Cup Playoffs), the most of any player in a single season in MLS history.

Franco Escobar scored his first career MLS Cup goal in his first MLS Cup Final, his second goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Miguel Almíron recorded an assist, his second in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Almíron has recorded 30 assists combined in both league and MLS Cup play over the last two seasons, the most in MLS.

Michael Parkhurst won his first MLS Cup, appearing in the final for a fifth time. He was a finalist with New England in 2005, 2006, 2007, and Columbus in 2015.

The game went without an attempt at goal until the 23rd minute, the longest without a shot from the start of the game in MLS Cup history.

Brad Guzan was credited with three saves in recording the shutout, the ninth goalkeeper to record a shutout in MLS Cup history.

Guzan won a fourth game in the MLS Cup Playoffs this season. He ended the season with 24 goalkeeper wins on the year (20 league, 4 postseason), tied for the most of any goalkeeper in MLS history (also: Kevin Hartman, LA, 1998, 1999).

Atlanta United did not concede a single goal from open play in the MLS Cup Playoffs. They allowed two goals in five postseason matches - one from a free kick, one from a corner kick.

The road team was shut out for a third consecutive MLS Cup. The last away team to score in an MLS Cup Final was the Portland Timbers, at Columbus in 2015 (now 353 minutes since the last road goal in the final).



On winning the MLS Cup:

"We won one, so that is good. It has been a while, 2013 with Newell's (Old Boys), won a title with (FC) Barcelona in 2014, but it has been a lot of disappointments, but this one we won. We won one, and these are always special moments, just to culminate this amazing process that we have had in Atlanta."

On what winning MLS Cup proves:

"I do not want to compare it to other jobs that I have been at, but this club had a plan from the very beginning, from the first time we spoke in September 2016 in Rosario (Argentina), and the important thing is this club never modified anything from those plans that they had told me, and that is very important. It is what makes this club very successful, is that the club had a plan and the directors have followed that plan to a T."

On what he is most proud of about his two years at Atlanta United FC:

"The most satisfying thing for me is to be able to fulfill all the plans that the club presented to me at the beginning. I think we have got the best training facilities in the League. We have got the best team in the League, so as a club, they gave the coaching staff absolutely everything you need to be successful, and that is what makes it the most satisfying."

On what he learned about himself that he can take into whatever comes next for him:

"I am someone who has very clear ideas of what I want for myself, so I do not doubt myself a lot, both as a person and as a coach, but you are always trying to learn more about yourself. Here, as I have said before, I went back to being a coach and that was the key for me here. Sometimes, when you are at very important clubs in other places, you do not feel like you are as much a part of it, but here I went back to being a coach and we are proud of what we were able to do, putting together a team, bringing in the players, and now, obviously, this moment, so those are things that I will take with me to my next job."


On winning the MLS MVP, MLS Cup, and MLS Cup MVP:

"I am most happy with the (MLS) Cup. I think this team has had an incredible year, and I think we just have to appreciate the work of everyone this season, the players and coaching staff, because even though we had some ups and downs as a team, everyone on this team contributed something and made sacrifices. This is a win that we want to celebrate because it has been a long year and thank God also."

On Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese being an idol, but accomplishing things Savarese could not:

"I want to send a message to him and say thank you to him, because he accomplished a lot over his career, and he was someone who I watched when I was younger as a player, so I have to thank him for that and for everything he did to put Venezuela at the highest level. I had the chance to meet him last year in New York, but this year, the great effort that (Atlanta United FC) made to end this amazing run that we have had with a championship, we are very happy, and we want to enjoy it, but again, thanks to (Giovanni) Savarese for everything that he has done."


On how far Major League Soccer has come:

"I hope we have raised the bar right. The league has opened up a few things and guys like Arthur Blank have come in and said this is what I want to do and the league has followed suit."

On the state of the game:

"I think we have defended well over the last four to five games. We have defended really well as a team. Portland pushed players forward in the second half, but to get a shutout in the final is pretty phenomenal."

On how important Josef Martinez and Miguel Almirón have been:

"Together they are outstanding. Miguel has done so much for us. He gets us out of so much trouble. He puts the other team on their heels and Josef is the guy that finishes things off. You saw it tonight, he gets more or less a half chance, and dribbles around the 'keeper to finish it off. They have done that over and over in the past two years, and today was a culmination of that hard work."

On what 2019 holds for MLS with the quality of play and star players in the league:

"I think you will see more of the same. You will see more exciting players, more exciting teams. More of a global feel to the league. Sit back and enjoy. It's going to be fun that's for sure."

On how he will enjoy the offseason:

"It's going to be a pretty short one. I'll sit down and rest a couple of weeks, and then get back after it."


On what the championship means:

"It's huge. I've always said you never know when you're going to have an opportunity to be in a final. They don't come around often. You've got to take advantage when you're part of them, when you're in the moment. You've got to enjoy the lead-up to it, you've got to enjoy the game. And, when you win, you get to enjoy the postgame celebration. It's huge. It's huge for us as a team, as a club, as an organization. But, I think for us, over the last week or two we've really heard what it means to the city to be able to give a championship. So, to be able to deliver that, there's no greater feeling. It's pretty cool."

On getting a shutout:

"More than the shutout, I'm just happy to play my part. You know, the guys in front of me have been tremendous, especially during this playoff run. There's not many times we've been cut open. We've conceded great chances. So, to make the save in the first half, just happy to play my part. The guys in front of me have been tremendous from the first game against New York City away to now. It's pretty special."

On whether he thought U.S. soccer could ever progress this far:

"Yes, it just took the right combination of city, of venue, of training ground, of players most importantly. And it all started with the vision from Arthur (Blank). He's the man behind all of this. He thought that it could prevail: this sport, a team in this city. And it all started with a belief. And obviously Darren (Eales), Carlos (Bocanegra), Paul (McDonough), whose obviously left, but those guys did their homework in terms of putting together this team and this roster from day one. And, to celebrate like we are now after year two, it's huge."

On what went through his head when the final whistle blew:

"Just pure excitement. As I mentioned, for the reasons I mentioned earlier. For the team, the club, the organization, the players. You never know when you're going to be in a final. I've been fortunate enough to be a part of a few finals. To play in one, to raise a trophy -- it's massive."

On the moment it set in that Atlanta was going to win:

"I mean, you started to sense that they've kind of tossed in the towel a little bit. The first goal was huge. Listen, goals change games, and the first goal was always going to be massive one way or the other. So, to get the first one was big. To get the second one, I think really broke their backs I think that really put them behind. Listen, on so many different levels, it's just massive. It's huge for us."

On how the team is rallying around Tata (Martino) leaving:

"In sports, things change. Coaches change. Players change. There's going to be players in this locker room that aren't here next year. There's going to be new players that come in. It's part of professional sports. That's why you savor these moments. That's why you enjoy these moments that much more. It is what it is. There was more discussion on the outside of our locker room about Tata (Martino) leaving than there was on the inside. He told us he was leaving, plain and simple. We got on with it. We knew what type of quality and what type of team we had, and we wanted to make the most of it. And here we are."

On what Miguel's (Almirón) legacy means:

"His legacy, his impact on the game, on the team, on the city, it's huge. Whatever happens with Miguel (Almirón), we wish him all the best. He has been a fantastic servant of this club, of this city. He deserves everything that he's going to get going forward in his career on an individual basis. So, couldn't be happier for him. If this is the end for him, to be able to send him off as a champion."

On where this ranks among his career achievements:

"This is up there. It's not every day you get to win a title, to win a championship. So, to be able to be a part of this, it's truly special.


On how surprising it was to win MLS Cup in only two years:

"I'm not surprised because we got a great group of guys in there. We got a great coaching staff, and Carlos [Bocanegra], Darren [Eales], Arthur [Blank]. I mean everybody has done a fantastic job in the three years that we've been a club, two years on the field. They put us in a position to succeed, and we, on the field, took it from there. What a performance tonight."

On how it felt to finally win an MLS Cup:

"I dreamed of what it felt like to be in the locker room with the champagne. I've heard it through the walls a couple times. This is amazing."

On what the strategy was to shut down Sebastián Blanco and Diego Valeri:

"Really just be wary of them on the counter attack, not allow them to get out and run at us. Jeff [Larentowicz], Leandro [Gonzalez Pirez], Eric [Remedi] -- those guys did such a good job of making sure that those guys didn't have the time or space to create. You know, it's easier said than done because those guys are so good."

On the incredible showing from the supporters tonight and all season:

"I mean, what a night here tonight. You can't say enough about it. The support that we get is incredible. It's such an awesome place to play; the facilities, the staff, the fans. Everything is just top notch, and hopefully it's taking MLS to the next level. It's great for the league, and we're enjoying it."

On the reality compared to the enjoyment:

"Every bit is great. It's amazing in there. It's tough to describe, such a good group of guys. It's so nice to be able to go out there and have a good performance and win. We came in such big favorites, and that's difficult to have the pressure on us of hosting and being the team that had more points in the regular season. The team stepped up just like we did all postseason. An incredible performance, and I'm going to enjoy the rest of the night.

On the slide tackle that led to the first goal:

"I just wanted to get pressure on him, not allow him to turn. I'd seen his videos that a lot of the time he likes to go to that side because he's got the left foot. He likes to take it inside. From there, I just slid. Josef did all the work from there. He does what he does best, and that's putting it in the back of the net."

On what it was like to play this MLS Cup in Mercedes-Benz Stadium compared to his last appearance:

"Yeah it is. I mean, that was an amazing atmosphere in Columbus, but of course it's a different stadium, a different venue. The way they pack it in here 74,000-ish, it's just amazing to play in front of. They were so loud, so supportive, and we were tired out there. There were some tired legs. Just waiting around all day for the late game is difficult, the intensity of the game. Guys were exhausted even coming in at halftime, so we really had to dig in those last 30 minutes, and the crowd was big to push us on."

On what the last 2-3 years says about what a U.S. or Canadian MLS team can be:

"There's no limit. You have to have the right pieces and go out there. You also have to hit on your stars, and we did. Miguel [Almirón] and Josef [Martínez] are special. You don't always hit, and the club hit with those guys. We don't win without those guys. They're incredible. From front to back, everyone did their jobs, and just because you go out there and spend the money doesn't always lead to success. You know, Toronto tried for a while, and eventually got there, but it took a while. So for us to go out here and do it in year two is an incredible accomplishment."

On whether he thought Atlanta was cursed as a sports town before tonight:

"I mean, that's what people say, but I'm from Boston, and they're supposedly cursed as well. We've been enjoying the last 15 years up in Boston. Most of us aren't from here, so we don't know the pain that they've been through. I'm just happy we could come through for them tonight because I know there were a lot of anxious and stressed out fans out there."

On the team playing with a target on their back all year:

"I think early on in the season we understood that. People think we're the media darlings, we get all the calls, we're the LA of 10 years ago, so that combined with the atmosphere here teams come in here, and they play their best. They know they have to, or we're capable of scoring 5-6 goals. We knew when the season started that we'd have to be at our best. You know, that first game was a wakeup call for us. We lost 4-0. It was a long time ago, but it was probably the best start to the season we could've asked for because it was a reality check. It was 'hey, we have to be at our best every single game' and we were at our best the entire playoffs."


On the evaluation of the game and how he would look back at this season:

"I'm extremely proud of the work the guys have given to this season. To be able to get to this stage, MLS Cup, you need to sacrifice. You need to put everything into it. I couldn't be more proud of the work they put in this whole season, but the work they put in today. I thought our guys made it difficult for them. In this environment, in this stadium, we had good moments in the game. Overall, I couldn't have asked more of my players. They gave everything and I'm very proud of the season."

On the difficulty of playing in this stadium and the magnitude of the match:

"Playing a stadium like this is always more difficult. I think it was a motivation for us. I didn't see a side of my team that we were afraid of the moment and the location of the venue. We showed up to play and did some good things. In the first half, we prevented them from getting a lot of spaces. Yes, there were some moments they found space, but we were good in closing those spaces quickly. We kept the ball where we wanted. We were a little more courageous in the second half and getting the ball where we wanted. I think the momentum was killed by the referee on the foul that wasn't a foul. In the second half, it was pretty even, but when we had more momentum going forward, that second goal really hurt us."

On his assessment of Josef Martinez:

"Josef has been a very good player the entire season. It was going to be difficult today. I thought we did a good job of preventing him from getting on the ball. But he found that first goal and that's when good strikers have opportunities, they have to make sure they are able to put those away. He did that tonight. I don't think that it was only a Josef game. Their team put in a good fight as did our team tonight. Everyone that was in the stadium saw a good game tonight."

On if he expected to have a physical game:

"We expected a difficult and physical match for sure. We knew they were going to play this way for sure. They were trying to be pragmatic, they were going to be very vertical going forward. We played to try and win. It was a good fight and a good match."


On how proud he is of being a part of this MLS Cup Final:

"It was OK. It was a final and every final has a little extra excitement. Being the first final for Atlanta, the stadium was full and the atmosphere was good. The game was tight. We forced them to kick long most of the time. In the middle, they couldn't find many balls. The goal changed everything though. We weren't able to be as effective on offense."

On if Portland frustrated Atlanta until the first goal came:

"We expected that they would play long at times. Besides that, we forced them to kick long most of the times. Sometimes we weren't as precise as we wanted, but both teams couldn't do much in the middle of the field. After the first goal, the game changed a little bit. We had a chance at the end of the first half that we couldn't convert. In the second half, we created chances, we were in their half of the field more, but they got the second goal on a set piece."


On the team's performance:

"There were little things that weren't happening tonight. We felt like we had a chance but there were too many missed chances. It was just that final touch or final pass that we needed and it might have gone a different way."

On the crowd's impact on the game:

"Any time you have 70,000 screaming fans for the home team is difficult. If they came to Portland we'd have many more fans than them. They'd have 500 fans stuck up in the corner and you wouldn't hear them. You would never hear them. It would give us an advantage."

On the attitude during halftime:

"We knew that we needed to boost it up and get back out there. Everyone could see that when we came out, we started moving the ball quicker and being more dangerous."

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