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Villalba, Gressel score to lead Atlanta past Toronto 2-0

photo by AP photo

Atlanta United midfielder Darlington Nagbe (left) and Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley chase the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match in Atlanta on Wednesday.

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10th-May-2019       
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AFP, Atlanta :
Atlanta United is starting to resemble the team that won the MLS Cup five months ago.
Hector Villalba and Julian Gressel scored to lead resurgent Atlanta to its third victory in a row, 2-0 over Toronto FC in a matchup of the last two MLS Cup champions Wednesday night.
After a sluggish start under new coach Frank de Boer, United (4-3-2) is finally rounding into its expected form. Atlanta dominated the stat sheet, piling up a 19-8 advantage in shots, knocking two attempts off the post and preventing Toronto from putting any balls on net.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan extended his scoreless streak to three games without much effort, giving the 3-year-old Atlanta franchise its first victory over Toronto FC in five matches.
"This shows the confidence is growing," de Boer said. "It's a big step forward against a very good team."
After Josef Martinez was denied on a couple of chances in close, Atlanta broke through in the 17th minute. The play was set up by Ashtone Morgan's hard foul on Gressel just outside the box, giving United a dangerous free kick. Pity Martinez launched one over the wall, only to have Alex Bono make a brilliant save diving to his left.
But Josef Martinez hustled after the rebound, sending the ball back in front where Villalba flicked it past the keeper for his first goal of the season.
Villalba got a chance to shine, moving into the starting lineup with Ezequiel Barco called away by the Argentina national team for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland. Villalba nearly scored again late in the first half, shifting the ball from one foot to the other to get away from four defenders before banging his shot off the post.
"He's unpredictable," de Boer said. "You never know what he's going to do. He's difficult to defend. He's so quick. I know he wants to play. This is his time."
In the 65th, Villalba knocked another one into the net off a pass from Josef Martinez but the play was nullified by an offside penalty. Just 2 minutes later, United struck again with a goal that counted. 

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