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CCL Rewind: Atlanta United completes epic comeback to advance

2018 MLS Cup - Portland Timbers v Atlanta United

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 08: Josef Martinez #7 of Atlanta United reacts after scoring the first goal against the Portland Timbers during the 2018 MLS Cup between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Before the match, Atlanta United’s chances of advancing to the next round of the CONCACAF Champions League were slim. That all changed inside the first minute of the game.

Josef Martinez’s goal in the first 60 seconds set the tone as Atlanta United went on to rout Costa Rican side Herediano, 4-0, winning 5-3 on aggregate. Martinez finished with two goals, including the one that finally put Atlanta United ahead midway through the second half. Julian Gressel scored in the ninth minute while defender Leandro Gonzalez Pires powered home a header in the 83rd minute to put the finishing touches on the match.

[READ: Projecting the next USMNT squad]

Whether due to early-season jitters, the playing surface or rustiness, Atlanta United did not look its former self in the first leg of the encounter. On Thursday night, it looked like the dominant Atlanta United of old, even though they played at Kennesaw St.'s Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Frank de Boer stuck with his 3-4-3 formation, though he brought in Brek Shea, who created a spark down the left for the first goal. Shea’s cross was mis-cleared right into the path of Martinez, who finished for a goal.

The intensity and performance should help Atlanta carry the early-season momentum in MLS into the next round of the Champions League. Plus, as Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez, Josef Martinez and Ezequiel Barco grow in chemistry, so exciting attacking options should be on display one day.