Josef Martinez thrilled another record crowd in Atlanta by scoring in the MLS All-Star Game, but Italian champions Juventus prevailed on penalties after a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night.
Juventus scored all five of their spot kicks in front of a 72,317-strong crowd, winning when Mattia De Sciglio drilled one into the upper-left corner past Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
New York Red Bulls striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, who recently scored his 100th goal in the States, was the villain as his shot cannoned back off the post.
It was the second straight year that the All-Star Game ended in a 1-1 draw and was decided by penalties. In 2017, Real Madrid prevailed 4-2 at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
This game was a showcase for Atlanta United and the £1.15billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where record crowds have flocked since the club joined MLS in 2017.
The team is averaging nearly 52,000 per game this season and has drawn the five largest single-game league crowds in MLS history — each more than 70,000.
On Wednesday the ground added another mark to the ever-growing list. It was the largest turnout in the history of the MLS All-Star Game, surpassing the crowd of 70,728 for the 2010 match in Houston.
Juventus, playing four games on their tour of the States this summer, didn’t bring along their prized acquisition Cristiano Ronaldo.
He is back in Turin getting back up to speed after Portugal’s elimination from the World Cup and his £100m move from Real Madrid.
He wasn’t the only one absent, with Gonzalo Higuain and Mattia Caldara both set for a move to Milan, with Leonardo Bonucci returning to Juventus as part of the deal.
The MLS team were also missing one of their biggest names.
LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic skipped the exhibition match rather than make a cross-country trip to Atlanta.
The 36-year-old Swede cited the grind of playing three matches in a nine-day span, including last Sunday’s 4-3 victory over Orlando City, in which he scored his first MLS hat-trick.
Ibrahimovic, who played with Juventus from 2004-06, is the second-top scorer in the country this season.
But the MLS did have Martinez, the scoring machine for Atlanta United. Fittingly enough, he netted the only goal for the All-Stars.
Juventus went ahead in the 21st minute. Giving the Italians far too much room to develop the play, the MLS back line allowed Matheus Pereira to go unchallenged as he curled a left-footed ball across the face of goal, which 21-year-old Andrea Favilli turned past Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan with a nifty header.
The lead didn’t last long. Five minutes later, Martinez sent the Atlanta fans into a frenzy with a goal of pure persistence.
Minnesota’s Francisco Calvo’s blistering shot was brilliantly swatted away by keeper Wojciech Szczesny, but the ball was kept alive by Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti. His header back across goal found Martinez at the far post, who got his head on the ball ahead of defender Alex Sandro.
As fireworks went off behind the goal, Martinez posed in front of the stands with his arms crossed — a familiar stance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2018.
With 24 goals already in just 23 league games, the Venezuelan is on pace to easily eclipse the MLS scoring record of 27 goals, with the golden boot essentially already wrapped up.