ATLANTA — So much for Atlanta United needing a mini-miracle to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament.
The night at Fifth Third Bank Stadium began with United trailing by two cumulative goals in Leg 2 of Round 1; but in the end, Atlanta had more than enough cushion to reach the CONCACAF quarterfinals, cruising to a 4-0 home victory over CS Herediano.
With the win, United moves on to the quarterfinal round and will encounter Monterrey of Mexico in two weeks.
It's worth noting: In 20-plus years of competition, no Major League Soccer team has ever captured the CONCACAF Champions League title.
The night might have begun with a whiff of desperation, thanks to United's 3-1 defeat to Herediano last week.
But the Costa Ricans were the ones looking frazzled from the get-go, with Josef Martinez registering the fastest starting goal in franchise history – requiring only 47 seconds to find the net.
Eight minutes later, Julian Gressel was the primary benefactor of many crisp United passes in the scoring zone.
As a result, Gressel had a point-blank shot at the Herediano goalkeeper, tallying his first goal of the tourney (left side).
At that point, United could have easily gone into safe mode, knowing a tie from that point forward would clinch the bracket victory.
Instead, they kept pushing the proverbial envelope in the second half.
Paydirt officially came in the 63rd minute. The Herediano defense, perhaps feeling desperate at the moment, valiantly tried to corral a scoring opportunity at midfield.
But that merely opened the door for Martinez notching his second goal of the night, a virtual tap-in which ran the score to 3-0.
Twenty minutes later, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez put the capper on a seemingly flawless night of soccer, exhibiting the very best of United.
Will that momentum carry on into the next round? We'll find out in very short time.