Two late goals saw Atlanta United suffer a shock 3-2 defeat at the hands of Minnesota United at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium last night.
Abu Danladi opened the scoring for the visitors just after half-time but a quick-fire double from Hector Villalba and Julian Gressel put the Five Stripes in front with just over 15 minutes left to play.
However, Christian Ramirez equalised in the 90th minute before Kevin Molino won it in the 96th for Minnesota.
Gerardo Martino made five changes from the team that drew 0-0 with New England Revolution with Josef Martinez and Brad Guzan both missing through international duty while Greg Garza and Anton Walkes missed out through injury with Jeff Larentowicz dropping to the bench.
Into the starting line-up came Kyle Reynish, Tyrone Mears, Kevin Kratz, Kenwyne Jones and Yamil Asad.
Minnesota made four changes as Marc Burch, Michael Boxall, Miguel Ibarra and Ramirez were replaced in the starting XI by Jermaine Taylor, Brent Kallman, Collen Warner and Danladi.
The first chance of the game fell to Atlanta in the 5th minute when Hector Villalba raced in behind the back four from a Kratz pass but could only fire his shot straight at Bobby Shuttleworth in the visitor’s goal.
Villalba tested the ‘keeper again when he chested a Chris McCann pull back and hit a stinging volley towards the bottom corner but Shuttleworth was equal to the effort.
Minnesota then had a penalty appeal waved away with 23 minutes played as Collin Martin’s strike hit McCann and despite calls for handball, the referee ignored them.
The first-half was devoid of any further chances and the sides went into the interval all square.
It didn’t take long for what would be an entertaining and dramatic second period to burst into life as Minnesota took the lead through Danladi.
With 47 minutes gone, Taylor stepped out of defence to intercept Gressel’s infield pass. The Jamaican defender quickly moved the ball forward into the feet of Molino who released Danladi.
The Ghanaian’s quick feet left Michael Parkhurst in a tangle before firing a vicious strike across Reynish in the Atlanta goal and into the top corner to give the away side a 1-0 lead.
The ATL ‘keepers afternoon went from bad to worse on the hour mark as he rushed out of his goal to try and intercept a through ball, only to bring down Danladi just outside the penalty area.
Initially, the referee did not give a foul but after consulting the video assistant referee, Reynish was red-carded for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. Kenwyne Jones was withdrawn and Greek shot-stopper Alexandros Tabakis took his place in between the sticks.
Despite the man advantage, Minnesota failed to capitalise and just seven minutes after Reynish’s sending off, Atlanta found an equaliser.
The home side’s high pressure saw Gressel win the ball on the edge of the away sides box. His cross wasn’t cleared properly and it fell to Villalba just inside the D. The Argentine hit a sweet half-volley that fizzed across the surface and into the back net to draw the sides level.
Five minutes later and Atlanta were in front.
Gressel picked up the ball deep in his own half before playing a ball forward to Asad. Crowded out in the centre, the latter spotted the formers run out wide, playing an inch-perfect pass behind the defence.
Staying composed, Gressel took his time, beat a defender and curled a left-footed shot into the top corner, well out of the reach of Minnesota goalkeeper Shuttleworth to give the Five Stripes a 2-1 lead.
Defending their advantage with 10 men was always going to be a difficult task for Atlanta and they finally cracked with 90 minutes on the clock.
A Minnesota corner resulted in pinball inside the penalty area and the slightest of touches from substitute Ramirez just three-yards out saw the ball trickle over the line to make the game all square.
That was not the final action of the game as more late drama broke Atlanta hearts.
With six of the seven minutes injury time played Minnesota broke down the left-hand side. Jerome Thiesson was given space to pick out a cross, with his delivery being met by Molino who headed down into the net to secure a late 3-2 win for the visitors.
The defeat means Atlanta stay third in the Eastern Conference, three points behind New York City FC knowing that Patrick Vieira’s men must slip up if they are to climb above them.
The Five Stripes visit New York Red Bulls next Sunday as they look to hit a good run of form before the MLS Cup play-offs begin in December.