Ezequiel Barco converted a second half penalty to lift Atlanta United to a 1-0 victory over Liga Deportiva Alajuelense of Costa Rica in the first leg of the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
The victory was a historic one as it marks the first win for an MLS side at Alajuelense in the SCCL after three previous defeats. It was also Atlanta United’s first ever away win in the SCCL.
Atlanta United carved out a pair of early chances off set pieces that ended with shots narrowly missing the target, including a Lisandro Lopez attempt in the 14’. Barco was next to come close with a hard-hit right-footed shot that went blazing just wide in the 35’.
A wayward back-pass from the Atlanta United defense led to a key moment in the 43’ in which GK Brad Guzan was issued a red card for a tackle on Alajuelense FW Marcel Hernandez just outside the area, reducing the visitors to 10 men.
Alajuelense started the second half with a man advantage, but it was Atlanta United who took a 1-0 lead in the 50’ courtesy of a Barco penalty conversion.
The Ticos looked to respond with pressure to try to test new Atlanta United GK Rocco Rios Novo, but the 18-year-old showed poise beyond his years and made all the saves needed, including snuffing out a Johan Venegas chance in the 87’ and blocking a Hernandez shot in second half stoppage time to secure the win.