An MLS record crowd filled Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports)
ATLANTA — Records on and off the field were broken and equaled at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday.
A Major League Soccer-record crowd of 70,425 showed up to watch Atlanta United and Orlando City SC register a 3-3 draw.
Josef Martinez recorded a hat-trick for the second successive match, becoming only the third player in league history to accomplish that feat.
“This team is just incredible,” MLS commissioner Don Garber told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This team in six days will have more than 150,000 people come to three soccer matches.”
The mark shattered the record set in the second week of MLS’s inaugural season April 13, 1996 — 69,255 — which watched the LA Galaxy defeat the NY/NJ MetroStars at the Rose Bowl.
“This is a great testament to Arthur [Blank’s] vision, his execution because I think you need to be able to deliver on your plan, not just have a great plan,” Garber said. He’s got a terrific organization. It’s a good moment for all of us in MLS.”
In so many ways.
“We’ve been saying it for a while but the support today was even better than usual,” Atlanta United head coach Tata Martino said. “We’re happy to play in front of a fan base like that. It’s clear that the fans have a fervent passion for soccer here — the same passion that our players have on the field. Today, we were able to come back three times from a goal down and I like that attitude from our team.”
Dom Dwyer started the scoring for Orlando City in the 10th minute, finishing a header past goalkeeper Brad Guzan after Donny Toia sent in a cross to the far post. But Atlanta equalized in the 36th minute behindMartinez. He tapped one in after Julian Gressel got in behind the defense and past keeper Joe Bendik, but as the ball rolled along the goal line, Martinez was able to put it away.
Dwyer put Orlando ahead again less than three minutes later. This time the cross came from the right flank with Scott Sutter sending one to the far post again and over the outstretched arm of Guzan. Dwyer rose above the defense and headed the ball into an open net.
Atlanta equalized in the 55th minute with Martinez heading in his second goal. Chris McCann sent in a cross from the left sideline and Martinez rose between two defenders to head it on goal past Bendik. Orlando re-took the lead three minutes later from a headed cross. This time it was Dwyer sending it in from the right flank with Cyle Larin putting it away, short-side of Guzan, at the far post.
Martinez would not be outdone equalizing again in the 69th minute. Tito Villalba sent in a cross to the near post that Martinez beat Orlando defenders to. He then smashed one into the back of the net with his right foot.