ATLANTA -- Seventy-seven games. That's how many matches it took for Atlanta United to reach the summit of Major League Soccer. In just two years under the guidance of Tata Martino, the young franchise took home the most prized domestic competition. On Saturday night, Atlanta won MLS Cup 2018 with a convincing performance, especially defensively, and sent Martino out on a high note with a 2-0 victory. Josef Martinez scored in the first half, and Franco Escobar doubled the lead in the second half as the hottest team in MLS sizzled its way toward its first major trophy.
Here are three takeaways from the big match:
Martino cautious, but it pays off
As he tends to do in finals, Martino was cautious and went with five at the back, and boy did it pay off. Portland couldn't do hardly anything in attack, struggling to find the space in the final third to create much of anything. Portland had just three shots on frame -- one was denied by a great save by Brad Guzan -- but it just never really felt like this team was going to score.
On the other hand, Atlanta looked sharp from the beginning. They controlled the ball for most of the first half and got the winner from Josef Martinez with this effort:
Franco Escobar made it 2-0 in the second half with this lovely finish on a redirected header:
The 2-0 lead felt more like 4-0, and Portland couldn't find its way back. Atlanta, from start to finish, showed why it was the favorite to start the playoffs, and The Five Stripes finished the job:
Portland road magic runs out
After winning four road matches in the regular season, Portland won two in the postseason, but getting a third was always going to be tough. Atlanta lost at home just twice all season, and they were keen on not letting Portland get good looks on frame. Whether it was both centerbacks going towards a shooter or a defensive midfielder disrupting from behind, the Timbers just had a night of frustration instead of jubilation.
A goodbye from Almiron
When star Miguel Almiron was substituted off for Ezequiel Barco in the final minute, it felt like goodbye. Linked with a move to Europe, he didn't just give the normal clap of the hands. In addition to that, he also waved to the fans in what felt like his last match for the club. You could also see teammates thanking him.
Now, anything can happen, but this is a guy who has always had the talent to be in Europe. From his days at Lanus in Argentina, he was destined for Europe. And by January, we may see him there, but if his time is winding down in Atlanta, boy, has it gone to near perfection.
Relive the match below. If you are unable to view the live updates below,.