Match Recap

Atlanta United Wins First-Ever MLS Opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium 3-1 Over Sporting Kansas City


If it all led to this, then the moment did not disappoint.

On Sunday, Atlanta won its regular season home opener against Sporting Kansas City 3-1 in front of a full-venue crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Each of Atlanta’s goals signified a special first for the three scorers Luiz Araújo, Dom Dwyer and Caleb Wiley.

The first goal of the 2022 season belonged to Araújo, the result of sharp and connective passing between Tyler Wolff and Josef Martínez. In the 20th minute, Wolff linked up with Martínez on a transition play out of the midfield. Wolff passed the ball to Martínez who made a slick back-heel pass to Araújo. The Brazilian striker dribbled once then put it away with his trademark left foot.

It was Araújo’s fifth career goal for Atlanta United. Martínez and Wolff were credited with assists, a career-first for Wolff.

“I think that that chemistry is coming,” head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. “Obviously, we were working a lot on that in the preseason, on the chemistry and the little connections."

Araújo came out in the 26th minute after sustaining an apparent injury and was replaced by Dwyer. The long-time Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City SC forward made his debut with Atlanta United on Sunday and threatened his former team early.

Dwyer had one opportunity in the 44th minute when Andrew Gutman’s cross went past Martínez in the center and found Dwyer on the far side in the box. Dwyer had the keeper 1v1 but sent his shot slightly wide.

But later, in first half stoppage time, Dwyer found the goal. He received a long cross from Martínez on the far side, made a cut and drove a low shot past Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Tim Melia to put Atlanta ahead 2-0 and get his first goal in an Atlanta United uniform.

“This is a special club, this is a special group of players and they really welcomed me in preseason, and I’m pretty new,” Dwyer said. “They made me feel comfortable and they made this feel like home for me, so I’m trying to make it that.”

Dwyer, who’s Atlanta United’s most recent acquisition, was drafted No. 16 overall by Sporting Kansas City in 2012. The 11-year MLS veteran played six seasons in Kansas before moving on to Orlando and ranks No. 2 all-time in Sporting Kansas City history in goals scored (68).

The goal Sunday was Dwyer's first since September 2019.

“It’s always nice to score in your first game for a new club,” Dwyer said. “Against your old team is bittersweet, but it’s my first one in a couple of years, so it was a long time coming. I’ve definitely worked hard for this moment, so I’m very happy to be part of the squad and just a solid team performance.”

In the second half, Pineda sent on several subs for Atlanta United. Brooks Lennon came on in the 63rd minute for Wolff, Marcelino Moreno came on for Sejdić in the 75th minute and Caleb Wiley subbed on for Martínez also in the 75th minute.

And it was one of those subs who scored the final blow. In his first MLS appearance, Wiley, the 17-year-old defender who signed a Homegrown deal in January, capped off the day for Atlanta United with a beautiful toe-touch goal in the 88th minute. Moreno was credited with the assist.

“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Wiley said. “I don’t score that many goals that often, so when I do I’m so speechless.”

In Wiley’s goal celebration, the youngster threw his hands together in the shape of a heart and showed it toward the stands.

“It just shows how much love I have for this city and this club,” Wiley said. “They’ve given me so much, so it’s just a way of giving back. It was a huge, special moment for me to do it in front of these amazing fans, friends, family. So it was just special.”

Besides the goal scorers, Atlanta United got significant contributions from several players. Both goals in the first half were assisted by Martínez, who made his 100th MLS regular season start on Sunday. The club’s all-time leading scorer trails only goalkeeper Brad Guzan for most regular season starts with Atlanta United.

Gutman, the defender who earned rave reviews from teammates during preseason, made his Atlanta United debut and endeared himself to fans during the match with his tough play. At one point, he garnered an extended round of applause from the crowd after a relentless tackle in the second half. Gutman also earned Man of the Match honors.

Pineda was especially pleased with the trio in the midfield: Matheus Rossetto, Amar Sejdić and Osvaldo Alonso.

“They did a lot of the dirty work, just chasing, pressing, counter-pressing, but also making some interesting passes," Pineda said. "I was very happy with some of those quick combinations, first time pass and then going in behind, so I was very happy with that. But obviously we need to improve in the final delivery, and I think that will come as the season progresses.”

For Atlanta United to play its home opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was another noteworthy occasion. It was the first time Atlanta United played a regular season opener at its home stadium. The team previously hosted an opener in Atlanta at Bobby Dodd Stadium in 2017.

The fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium were raucous and loud except for one minute during the match. Between the second and third minute, fans quieted the chants and drums in honor of Christian Carrillo, the Atlanta United academy player who passed away earlier this month. Atlanta United players also wore black armbands to honor Carrillo.

The result marked the second time in the club’s six-year history that Atlanta United won its MLS opener. The previous time was in 2020 when Atlanta United beat Nashville 2-1 on Feb. 29.

Sporting Kansas City was a quality opponent out of the Western Conference. Last year, the club finished in third place in the conference table with a 17-10-7 record and made it to the conference semifinal match in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Atlanta United earned two yellow cards in the first 12 minutes. First, Robinson then later Alonso. The foul on Alonso led to a dangerous opportunity for Sporting Kansas City. Guzan came out for the block, but it got away from him and found defender Graham Zusi wide open on the far post. Fortunately, Campbell slid over to block the shot.

Sporting Kansas City came out on top of the possession battle (56 percent) and even got off more shots (14). But Atlanta was more accurate, outperforming Sporting Kansas City 6-2 with shots on goal. And Atlanta United made stops in the final third when it needed to, drawing Sporting Kansas City offsides five times, winning 45 duels and winning 11 tackles.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that we are happy with the result and the performances as well,” Pineda said.

Next up, Atlanta travels to Colorado on Saturday, March 5 for its first road trip of the 2022 season. Stay tuned to for the latest news.

Atlanta United Starters: Brad Guzan (C), Ronald Hernandez, Miles Robinson, George Campbell, Andrew Gutman; Matheus Rossetto, Osvaldo Alonso, Amar Sejdić (Marcelino Moreno – 75’); Tyler Wolff (Brooks Lennon – 64’), Luiz Araújo (Dom Dwyer – 26’), Josef Martínez (Caleb Wiley – 75’).

Atlanta United substitutes not used: Bobby Shuttleworth, Alex De John, Mikey Ambrose, Dylan Castanheira, Jackson Conway.

Sporting Kansas City Starters: Tim Melia, Andreu Fontas, Nicolas Isimat, Graham Zusi, Logan Ndenbe; Uri Rosell (Josè Mauri – 51’ – Marinos Tzionis – 77’), Roger Espinoza (Felipe Hernandez – 66’), Remi Walter; Johnny Russell (C), Khiry Shelton, Daniel Salloi.

Sporting Kansas City substitutes not used: John Pulskamp, Ben Sweat, Robert Voloder, Kortne Ford, Ozzie Cisneros, Cam Duke

Yellow cards: Miles Robinson (3’), Osvaldo Alonso (11’), Andrew Gutman (22’), Jose Mauri (58’), Andreu Fontas (79’)

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