Atlanta United Win 3-1 In Home Opener

Atlanta United player Brooks Lennon calls for the ball from Luis Araujo during their match last October. Photo by Harry Wyman | The Signal

On Feb. 27, Atlanta United began the MLS season with a 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City at the Mercedes Benz Arena.

The team started the game strong, sustaining pressure until Luiz Araujo, who scored Atlanta’s first goal of the season, injured himself while taking the shot. 

Araujo’s injury was a harsh blow to Atlanta United in the first game this season, with him being such an essential player for the team. In the post-match press conference, head coach Gonzalo Pineda admitted that he is unsure when Araujo will return.

“It didn’t look good,” Pineda told the press. “When someone feels like that after a sprint is never a good prognosis.”

He also confirmed to the press that it was a hamstring injury, and the team will know the extent of Araujo’s injuries soon.

Dominic Dwyer replaced Araujo and made his Atlanta United debut. Twenty-two minutes after coming onto the pitch, Dwyer had the ball in the back of the net, and it was 2-0 to Atlanta at halftime.

“It’s always nice to score in your first game for a new club,” Dwyer said after the game. “Scoring against my old team was bittersweet, but it was my first goal in a couple of years, so it was a long time coming.”

Dwyer highlighted his belief in this club and how easy it was adjusting to the Atlanta United organization. 

“This is a special club, this is a special group of players and they really welcomed me in the preseason, and I’m pretty new,” Dwyer said.

Kansas City did get a goal during the 85th minute through Daniel Salloi, but 17-year-old  debutant Caleb Wiley scored to make it 3-1 to Atlanta United four minutes later, all but sealing the deal for the Atlanta United win on opening day.

At 17 years, two months and five days old, Wiley’s goal made him the 15th youngest ever goalscorer in MLS history and Atlanta United’s second-youngest behind only George Bello. 

“Definitely a dream come true,” Wiley told the press after the match. “I don’t score many goals, so when I do, I get speechless when I see it go in the back of the net.”

Atlanta had fewer possessions and shots than Kansas City but was still more dangerous than the away side by creating five big chances compared to Kansas City’s one (stats via FotMob). 

The team can also take encouragement from the fact Josef Martinez registered two assists after failing to register a single one in the entirety of last season.

The victory over Sporting Kansas City was enough to leave Atlanta United third in the Eastern Conference and fifth in the Supporters Shield after the first match week. 

Atlanta travels to Commerce City to face the Colorado Rapids, who lost 3-0 away to Los Angeles FC in the opening weekend in their next game.

The team will be hoping Thiago Almada can secure his work visa in time for the next match to fill in for the injured Luiz Araujo, but Gonzalo Pineda said the team has the depth to deal with the upcoming games.