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Crew sweep defending champs Atlanta United with 3-1 road win

The victory means the Black & Gold can’t be eliminated from playoff contention just yet.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been an up-and-down Major League Soccer season for Columbus Crew SC in 2019 but one thing has remained surprisingly consistent is beating Atlanta United. A strong second half performance Saturday evening lifted the Black & Gold to a 3-1 victory over the Five Stripes.

Josef Martinez extended his scoring streak to 14 games with a (questionable) goal in the first half. Columbus answered with a strong three-goal second half showing. Forward Gyasi Zardes and winger Luis Diaz each scored and Atlanta defender Miles Robinson added an own goal in the dying moments of the contest to seal the win.

The Crew controlled the first 15 minutes of the contest, challenging Atlanta and playing a strong possession-based style of soccer. The hosts struck quickly as forward Josef Martinez put his team ahead in the 19th minute, finishing a cross from the left from the foot of Pity Martinez. The goal marked the 14th consecutive game in which the Venezuelan found the score sheet in MLS play.

But there is some question as to whether the goal should be given to Martinez, as his touch took a pretty significant deflection off Crew defender Connor Maloney before finding the back of the net.

Five minutes after his first strike, Martinez challenged Eloy Room with a venomous shot but the Crew goalkeeper made the save to prevent Atlanta from extending the lead.

Both teams traded punches as halftime approached but neither proved able to advance its cause heading into the locker room.

Columbus came out of the halftime break on a mission. It took the Black & Gold just nine minutes to find the back of the net in the second half. Zardes pounced on a rebound from goalkeeper Brad Guzan as he stopped a shot from the right by midfielder Diaz. Zardes stepped to the ball, put his laces through it and into the back of the net to tie the game.

Six minutes later, Diaz found his way on to the score sheet, breaking down defender Miles Robinson to create space and fit his shot through a tiny window, beating Guzan to his right. The play came after Diaz looked to cross into the penalty box but had his effort deflected right back to him.

Suddenly the Crew had a one goal advantage inside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

After conceding the lead, something Atlanta does not do often, the Five Stripes pushed forward looking for a goal. But the Columbus backline held tough. The United faithful thought Martinez had his second of the night late when he got in behind the Crew defense, but his effort was narrowly wide.

In the 85th minute, Robinson found himself involved in another Black & Gold scoring opportunity. The defender put the ball into his own net in an effort to clear a cross from Diaz away from the penalty area, giving Columbus a 3-1 and lifting the Crew over the defending MLS Cup Champions.

Scoring streak over?

Josef Martinez added to his historic scoring streak with a goal against the Crew on Saturday night, finding the net for the 15th consecutive game, but based on the replay, it would not be surprising if Opta officially recognizes the play as an own goal since it took a bounce off Connor Maloney before going into the net. Typically, the deflection has to change the ball from going wide to going into the goal and the replay is not 100 percent conclusive.

Should that happen, Columbus would end Martinez’s scoring streak at 13 games.

Season sweep

It has been well documented that 2019 has been an unconventional year for the Crew but getting a season sweep over the defending champions isn’t a bad consolation prize. Especially considering that Columbus had zero wins against United before this year — the shootout win in the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs officially registers as a tie. The Black & Gold are the only team to sweep Atlanta this season.

What’s next

Columbus continues its road trip next Saturday with a game against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET.