The American Family Insurance Cup got off on a good start for Atlanta United as the home side lifted the trophy under a flurry of confetti after winning the inaugural match over CF Pachuca 3-2 on Tuesday evening.
Not only was it an exciting contest at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The cup was designed by the 17s. Through voting on the club’s official website, supporters chose what they wanted to see on matchday. The fans chose everything from which kit the team wore, what song played when Atlanta United scored a goal and which group sent the honorary captain.
Supporters even molded and forged the trophy the team lifted after the final score.
"I think the team has a big happiness coming out of this victory," goalkeeper Rocco Ríos Novo said. "Being in a match when it's 2-2 to then scoring an important goal, it's good for us to get that win."
Atlanta United capitalized in the fifth minute. Marcelino Moreno took away the ball after a direct free kick for Pachuca, which led to a fast break. The attack found Luiz Araújo wide open making a central run. Goalkeeper Oscar Ustari blocked Araújo’s shot, but the rebound trickled to a trailing Josef Martínez who finished it off.
It seemed all too right that Martínez, the club's all-time leading scorer, made his mark on Atlanta United in one more way: scoring the first-ever goal in the cup's history.
"He was the guy lifting the spirits of the team, pressing and starting the pressure getting inside the box, talking to his players and making them accountable of things and that is the type of Josef that we all love and we all want," head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. "I hope that these types of performances is something to build into the next few games."
The Martínez-Araújo combination worked again to create Atlanta United’s second goal. A give-and-go between the two put Araújo within close range inside the box. The crafty forward cut the ball back and delivered a left-footed shot across his body to put Atlanta United ahead 2-0 in the eighth minute.
As quickly as Atlanta United scored their two goals, Pachuca found two just as quickly. In the 22nd minute, defender Gustavo Cabral headed in a corner kick. Then, the equalizer came after Ríos Novo made a nice block, but the Atlanta defense couldn’t get organized in time and forward Aviles Hurtado scored.
Pineda sent on a new group for the start of the second half. Only Ríos Novo remained on the pitch out of the original starting XI. The group that started the second half included several players from Atlanta United 2.
That’s when the longest active player on the pitch for Atlanta United scored the go-ahead goal. Dom Dwyer found space at the top of the box and delivered a rolling ball with his left foot to make it 3-2 in the 56th minute. Ajani Fortune, a midfielder with the 2s, recorded the assist.
"I have a very good squad," Pineda said. "Then up front, I put two forwards in the first half, Ronaldo [Cisneros] and Josef [Martínez]. They did a very good job. But then in the second half, I put in Dwyer and he scores a goal. So I think we have the right pieces. It's just trying to put them together and gel them out because obviously there are certain changes to the lineup. But I will say that I'm very, very happy with the team that I have. I'm very proud of the effort they put in day after day."
Tuesday marked the first all-time meeting between the two clubs. The visiting side came into the match after a successful season in Liga MX where they finished the regular season at the top of the table with a 12-3-2 record. CF Pachuca reached the finals but fell to defending champion Atlas on aggregate.
The friendly also presented a unique opportunity for a couple of Atlanta United’s stars. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan made his debut in the broadcast booth, calling the game with play-by-play announcer Kevin Egan and sideline reporter Jillian Sakovits. And during halftime, center back Miles Robinson appeared on the broadcast. Both players were out of tonight’s match due to injury.
Josef Martínez scores first-ever goal in American Family Insurance Cup history