Josef Martinez scores a goal for the MLS all-stars. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
ATLANTA — Well, there is a reason why Bradley Wright-Phillips doesn’t take penalty kicks for the Red Bulls any more.
He misses a lot of them.
Yet, he attempted one for the Major League Soccer all-stars in the MLS all-star game against Juventus Wednesday night. He hit the left post.
BWP took MLS’s fourth shootout before Mattia De Sciglio drilled one into the upper left corner past Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen for the game-winner and a 5-3 shootout victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium after teams played to a 1-1 tie over 90 minutes. There was no extratime in the game played before a sellout crowd of 72,317, the largest stand-alone all-star game in the league’s 23-year history.
MLS is 8-4-3 vs. international opposition in the all-star game. The league has lost all three matches decided by a shootout.
Asked how the penalty-kick takers were chosen, Atlanta United head coach Tata Martino, who guided the MLS side, replied, “I made a list of five players. I asked each one of them if they were comfortable to take the kick. They said yes, and that was it.”
It was the third MLS All-Star Game to be decided by a penalty kick shootout, the second in as many years, after Real Madrid CF (Spain) defeated the MLS All-Stars after a 1-1 draw last year in Chicago
It was an entertaining game.
Andrea Favilli lifted Juve into the lead in the 22nd minute thanks to Matheus Pereira’s curling cross before Atlanta’s Josef Martinez, through some determined individual efforts by the Montreal Impact’s Ignacio Piatti and his himself equalized in the 26th minute.
Martínez scored a goal for the first time in his career in a competitive match vs. Juventus. He had played twice vs. Juventus while at Torino in Italy.
“There’s a lot of pressure. Beyond the fact that we had a very good opponent, it was an important game, especially a team of this caliber,” said Martinez, who was named MVP of the match. “We had never played together before. We only had three days to meet, but I think we looked good despite that.”
Martinez leads the league with 24 goals in 23 matches.
“It’s great that he just stays on a roll,” said MLS all-star defender Michael Parkhurst, who is Martinez’s Atlanta teammate. “He knew he was only going to play about 30 minutes tonight, so he was going hard. It was a great goal again. He started the play by getting in the box and knocking it across. He stuck with the play and another fearless goal. He sticks his head right in there and almost gets crushed in the face again. But he doesn’t care that he already has a broken nose. The goal is more important for him. We are happy that he got another one.”