Anyone who has ever spoken to Michael Mastrangelo knows he had one goal in his soccer career: to score a hat trick for Atlanta United.
He mentioned it constantly – he said it to every first team player he’s ever met, any coach he’s come across, and even announced it at practice week after week (it would usually go something like, “oh yeah, I’m going to score a hat trick this weekend!”).
After five years with the team, Michael’s dream finally came true in his last match. Atlanta United Unified took home a dominating 7-2 victory over New England Unified this past Saturday, with hat tricks from both Michael and Steven Russell. The match took place in Gillette Stadium right after the first team match on a cold, windy Foxborough day.
Before their own kickoff, the Unified team got to cheer on the 5-Stripes from a private suite in Gillette. They went on an emotional rollercoaster cheering on their team – screaming with every close opportunity and hanging their heads at missed shots. To say they were passionate would be an understatement.
During the match, there was a prolonged moment where the 5-Stripes possessed the ball around the box but couldn’t get a shot off. A majority of the Unified squad was on their feet, pleading for someone to shoot the ball. One of the coaches took this moment to point out this is how they felt when the Unified team refused to shoot.
And just like that, something clicked.
Around the 60th minute, the Unified team headed down into a private locker room to get ready for their own match. They laced up their boots and listened intently to team talks from their coaches. One message was clear above the rest: shoot the ball.
With a new mentality and hunger to score, the Unified team took the field. The 7v7 competition consisted of two 20-minute halves, and the goals were smaller than what the team was used to. But they didn’t let that stop them.
As soon as the starting whistle blew, Mastrangelo made his way straight to the net. Unmarked, he waved his hands and waited for the ball. After a one-two out of the back with Emma Sim, midfielder and partner David Wilkerson took off down the sidelines and found Mastrangelo waiting on the back post. With a stellar one-touch shot from the forward, Atlanta United was on the scoreboard in the first 30 seconds of the match.
The rest of the half saw over 10 shots from the away team and an excellent individual effort by athlete Steven Russell to steal the ball from a defender and find the back of the net. Atlanta went into halftime leading 4-1 over New England Unified.
The plan for the second half was to continue capitalizing on offensive opportunities, hunker down on defense, and get Mastrangelo his hat trick in his last match. He was sitting on two goals, but he refused to be satisfied until he achieved his dream.
With about 10 minutes left to play, Mastrangelo once again found himself hovering near the goal. After another cross found his feet, he took his prep touch and ripped a shot in the upper-right 90 of the goal. Teammates immediately ran to his side to celebrate his big moment.
New England was able to capitalize on a late breakaway, but Atlanta held their ground and finished the match with a 7-2 win. The final whistle was met with cheers, drums, and a whole lot of smiles.
Following the match, each team was presented with Unified-branded scarves to mark the special occasion. Both teams thanked their fans, with a large amount of New England supporters staying after the first match to cheer on both sides. After some celebration pictures and hugs, both teams walked over to Patriot Place and enjoyed some team bonding at Topgolf. Many pieces of pizza, chicken tenders, and horrible golf swings later, it was time to head back to the hotel and prepare for the long day of travel on Sunday.
The result marked the first ever road win in Unified program history. The team finished the season 1-0-1 with this win and the comeback to draw at home against Orlando City Unified. But if you ask any of the players, the scrimmage win against the Atlanta United coaching staff should also count as an official match.
Tryouts for the 2023 Unified season are on Saturday, October 29th.
Atlanta United Unified Team Takes Home Big Road Win