2 own-goals send Atlanta United to 3-0 win over LA Galaxy

ATLANTA — Atlanta United scored a pair of own-goals in the first half and Josef Martinez added a penalty kick to finish off a 3-0 victory over the LA Galaxy on Saturday, pushing the reigning MLS Cup champions into a first-place tie in the Eastern Conference.

United, pulling even with Philadelphia at 39 points, stretched its home unbeaten streak to 10 games in a matchup between two of the league's top teams. Atlanta has never allowed a goal to the Galaxy, recording three straight shutouts since entering the league in 2017.

With the upper deck opened up and another MLS record crowd of 72,548 cheering on United, the home team responded with one of its best performances in what has been an up-and-down season under first-year coach Frank de Boer.

The Galaxy provided plenty of help.

In the 23rd minute, Florentin Pogba retrieved a long ball at the Atlanta end of the field and worked it up to Ezequiel Barco racing through the midfield. Barco slid a nifty pass to Pity Martinez, who broke into the clear down the right side. Martinez tried to work the ball in front, where both Barco and Josef Martinez were lurking, but the pass struck defender Dave Romney, sliding across the area on his back, and deflected past helpless goalkeeper David Bingham.

Atlanta made it 2-0 with a nearly identical play in the 43rd. This time, Justin Meram sprinted free down the left side and looked to get the ball to Josef Martinez, who was open in front of the net. Defender Giancarlo Gonzalez slid across to block the pass and wound up doing the same thing as Romney — deflecting the ball past Bingham.

United had plenty of chances to score a goal of its own in the opening half. Barco put a blistering ball off the crossbar, while Pity Martinez had a shot ricochet off the far post after Bingham just got a piece of it.

Atlanta sealed the victory in the 72nd after a video review showed that Emerson Hyndman was knocked down in the area by Gonzalez while going for a rebound after Bingham made a brilliant save to deny Josef Martinez.

That sent Martinez to the spot for the penalty kick, which he ripped inside the left post for his 18th goal of the season while Bingham dove to the right.

The 2018 MVP has 68 league goals over the last three seasons, matching Bradley Wright Phillips (2014-16) for the most prolific three-year scoring run in MLS history. With 10 games left in the regular season, Martinez should claim that mark all to himself.

In its three victories in the series, Atlanta has outscored the Galaxy 9-0.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

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