Vancouver Whitecaps (2-1-0, 6 pts) fell 4-1 on Saturday to hosts Atlanta United (2-1-0, 6 pts), playing almost the entire match down a man. While the ‘Caps did well to keep Atlanta at bay for much of the first half, they were unable to stop the Five Stripes from finding the net multiple times as Josef Martinez scored his fourth hat trick in just 23 MLS matches.
The Whitecaps found themselves in a hole after 15 minutes as referee Ismail Elfath went to video review and sent off Kendall Waston for an elbow to the head of Leandro González Pirez. The foul was in the penalty area as well and Martinez converted from the spot to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead.
Atlanta failed to take advantage of being a man up in the first half as they missed multiple opportunities to add a second goal. It looked like Miguel Almiron would have a tap in to make it 2-0 in the 43rd minute but his touch failed him as he pushed the tap in wide of the post.
Vancouver did their best to hold on to the 1-0 scoreline as long as they could while down a man, and were fortunate to only concede one goal in the first half. Coming out of the break they did well to absorb the pressure from Atlanta until the 58th minute when Aaron Maund scored an own goal while trying to clear a cross from Julian Gressel.
As a substitute, Brek Shea made an instant impact for Vancouver by creating attacking chances on counters and forcing a save from Brad Guzan in the 60th minute.
Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, they pushed too far forward while trying to follow up Shea’s chance and Atlanta was able to counter beautifully to give them a three goal lead. Jose Aja stepped up to Almiron to stop the ball but was late getting there, clearing out Almiron but after the pass had been made to Martinez. Maund was caught looking the wrong direction on the pass and Martinez was able to score one-on-one with Stefan Marinovic.
Vancouver was able to get one back on Atlanta in the 85th minute as Erik Hurtado beat Michael Parkhurst in a foot race and tucked the ball past Guzan for the goal. The Whitecaps were able to force a turnover at the top of their box and Jordon Mutch made a near perfect 50 yard pass to Hurtado in stride. With Parkhurst right on his back, Hurtado did well to control the ball and find just the right touch to beat the keeper and pull back a goal.
Three minutes later though Atlanta would put the match away as Martinez scores his hat trick to put the Five Stripes up 4-1. Andrew Carlton floated a perfect ball towards the back post for Martinez who is able to lose his defender and head in his third goal of the night.
Vancouver now sits in a four way tie for first in the Western Conference as they look to rebound at home on Saturday at 7 PM PT when they take on the Los Angeles Galaxy.