ATLANTA – For the majority of their debut, Atlanta United did not look like an expansion team playing its first game. However, things changed quickly at the end and the defending Eastern Conference champion New York Red Bulls came from behind to win 2-1 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Yamil Asad finished Tyrone Mears’ cross at the back post in the 25th minute, scoring Atlanta United’s first goal ever in official competition and giving them an early lead. United had opportunities to extend the lead before halftime, and their lack of decisive finishing would cost them in the end.
As the second half wore on, United began to tighten up and struggle with the onslaught of Red Bulls’ pressure. Mike Grella’s substitution into the game for New York opened up their attack, making them much more dangerous and causing Atlanta’s defense many problems.
In the 76th minute, goalkeeper Alec Kann was unable to hold a shot from Felipe, but recovered to quickly deny Daniel Royer’s rebound attempt. On the ensuing corner, Royer beat Julian Gressel in the air to head home the equalizing goal.
An injury to center back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez forced 20-year-old Anton Walkes into the match. One minute later, New York’s star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips charged toward a Kemar Lawrence cross. The ball deflected off of Walkes into Atlanta’s goal to put the Red Bulls into the lead in the 82nd minute.
A late red card to midfielder Carlos Carmona made the task even more difficult for United as they were unable to tie the game in the dying minutes.
Atlanta United manager Tata Martino:
“In reality the question could be what happened in the last 15 minutes. A good part of the first part we were much closer to converting a second goal. And in a series of errors that we made, they turned the score around, but I think we had started to control the game again up until they scored the equalizer.”
Midfielder Julian Gressel:
“The crowd was unbelievable. It was electric. That was probably one of the best in the country to be honest. Thousands of people – they are still celebrating up there. It is a tremendous – yeah, tremendous – thing for the city to have a team here. Now, we just have to try to win every game and put it on for the fans. It helps us because they push us through the thick and thin. Now, we get off to a great start now and hope we start winning games.”
Center back and captain Michael Parkhurst:
“It’s a 90-minute game. We came in here at halftime really pleased with the way we played. We knew they’d bring a little more pressure in the second half. We just weren’t able to finish it out. We weren’t clinical enough up front when we had a big opportunity, and then to give away a set piece was disheartening and the red card, as well. We need to learn from it and we will.”
- Atlanta’s crowd of 55,297 was the fourth-largest soccer crowd in the world for the weekend. Borussia Dortmund (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), and Manchester United (England) were the only clubs that topped Atlanta United. (Credit: Soccer America)
- United’s defensive pressure caused New York to turn the ball over often. This is a key element of Tata Martino’s system and one to watch throughout the season.
- Forward Josef Martinez was Atlanta’s most active player in the attack, taking six of his squad’s 14 shots.
- Atlanta completed nearly 100 more passes than the Red Bulls in the match.
- Next up for Atlanta United is a trip to Minneapolis to face fellow expansion club Minnesota United. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. next Sunday and we will have the call right here on 92-9 The Game.