Atlanta United heads into the March international break with a 2-1-1 record and seven points in the table. The team capitalized on a schedule that had them hosting three home matches. The first month of play started with winning the first-ever MLS home opener played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and ended with protecting a home unbeaten streak with a thrilling, come-from-behind draw.
Here’s a look at the first month of the season by the numbers and how Atlanta United has kicked off its 2022 campaign:
In its first four matches, Atlanta United has scored eight goals, tied for fourth best in the league. Seven of those eight goals have been by a different goal scorer: Luiz Araújo, Dom Dwyer, Caleb Wiley, Josef Martínez, Jake Mulraney, Thiago Almada and Brooks Lennon.
Here’s a breakdown of Atlanta’s first eight goals of the season:
- Three goals were outside the 18-yard box, tied for second-best in the league behind only Columbus Crew (Martínez, Almada, Lennon vs. CF Montréal).
- Two were scored by players making their club debuts (Dwyer, Wiley vs. Sporting Kansas City).
- Two came in stoppage time (Mulraney vs. Charlotte FC, Lennon vs. CF Montréal).
- Four were scored by substitutes (Dwyer, Wiley vs. Sporting Kansas City, Mulraney vs. Charlotte FC, Almada vs. CF Montréal).
Three of the first four matches of 2022 have been multi-goal matches. The team scored three goals twice (vs. Sporting Kansas City and CF Montréal).
However, eight is an important number for another reason. It’s the number of goals the team has scored this season, but it’s also the number of goals Atlanta United has given up. It’ll be one of the areas the team looks to improve when it returns from the break to face D.C. United on April 2.
So far, Martínez is the only Atlanta United player to record two goals in 2022. He converted a penalty kick in the 2-1 win against Charlotte FC, then went on to score the first non-PK goal when he intercepted a pass in the first half against CF Montréal to put Atlanta ahead early.
Martínez has set numerous scoring records in MLS and he’s on track to potentially break one more. With the goal against expansion club Charlotte FC, Martínez has now scored against 25 MLS clubs, tying Chris Wondolowski for most opponents scored against in MLS.
The only current MLS opponents left to cross off his list are Nashville SC and Austin FC. Martínez will have a chance to own the record when Atlanta United meets those teams later this season.
This offseason, Atlanta United made several key acquisitions such as midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, the veteran out of the Seattle Sounders who previously played with and was coached by Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda.
Gutman in particular has served an important role for Atlanta United. The left fullback had big shoes to fill, taking over the position previously occupied by George Bello, who signed with Arminia Bielefeld in the German Bundesliga in January. But Gutman has lived up to the task. In all four of Atlanta’s matches, he’s been in the starting XI and played a full 90 minutes. He leads the team in tackles won (7) and has taken four shots, nearly adding his name to the list of scorers on a goal that ended up not counting because of a foul called.
Two youngsters have made their MLS debuts in 2022. Wiley (against Sporting Kansas City) and McFadden (on the road against Colorado Rapids) also made their club debuts. Wiley signed a Homegrown deal with the first team in January and has played minutes in two of Atlanta United’s four matches in 2022. Meanwhile McFadden, a core player for Atlanta United 2 who trained with the first team during preseason, made the trip to Colorado on a short-term agreement.
More than 67,000 supporters showed up to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the home opener against Sporting Kansas City on Feb. 27. It was the highest attendance of MLS opening weekend. The match with the second-highest attendance that weekend, Seattle Sounders hosting Nashville SC at Lumen Field, had approximately 30,000 fans.
Atlanta United also led the league in attendance for Week 3 (43,055) and Week 4 (42,578). That’s a big reason why MLS players voted Atlanta United’s stadium environment as the most desirable. The club continues to have consistent attendance, and a legion of loud and rowdy fans who show up for their team.
“I love that connection,” Pineda said. “When they are into the game, they are feeling what we need. We need that type of support. So for me, that’s the connection that I always talk about when the crowd is on the same page with the players and they know what we need, I think that’s the result and I’m just happy for that connection.”
It’s no secret that Atlanta United plays well at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The team has gone unbeaten at home in 10 straight matches, going back to the end of the 2021 season. That run is just one shy of tying a club-best of 11 from 2019.
It looked like the streak was in trouble this past week when Atlanta United gave up three goals in the first half to CF Montréal, but the 5-Stripes put together an improbable comeback, scoring two goals in the final minutes of the match to secure the point and keep the run intact.
“That’s a stat that should go on as long as possible because this should be our fortress in a place that we never drop points," Lennon said. "No matter what team comes and plays us here at the Benz, they should feel pressure."
Speaking of Lennon, he’s off to a strong start in 2022. After sustaining an ankle injury in January camp with the U.S. men’s national team, he sat out most of Atlanta United’s preseason and wasn’t in the starting XI in the home opener against Sporting Kansas City. But he entered the match as a sub in the 64th minute and has started every match since. He’s proving to be a key part of the attack, leading the team in key passes (11), seven more than the next player on the list, and ranking among the league’s best in shot-creating actions.
He had a career highlight against Montréal. Martínez drew a foul that earned Atlanta a direct free kick about 30 yards from goal, and Lennon took the long-range kick to score the equalizer in stoppage time. The goal was Lennon’s first of the season and the first direct free kick goal of his career.
In its history, the club has come back from a two-goal deficit four times. The most recent occurred in the match against CF Montréal on March 19. Atlanta United gave up three goals in the first half and went into the locker room at halftime down 3-1.
The score remained until the 85th minute. The team, down a man after Dwyer received a red card in the 67th minute, pushed to create chances. Almada, fresh and making just his second appearance in MLS, secured a bouncing ball around the top of the box and delivered a strike, while leaning back, into the upper right corner of the net. A few minutes later in stoppage time, Lennon converted the direct free kick for Atlanta United to escape with a draw.
The comeback was so late, so unlikely with 10 men on the field, and both goals so impressive, that the draw almost felt like a win. However, after the match the team conveyed that they weren’t pleased with settling for a draw.
“We ended up giving the rivals the opportunity to outdo us,” Pineda said. “However, I’m proud of how we ended because it demonstrates to me how the team will never give up and that they are capable of overcoming obstacles under pressure. But that doesn’t make me forget about what happened throughout the game earlier. There will be corrections, more training and understanding that there’s a lot of competition out there. In this field, if you don’t do your best, someone else will take your place.”
The number of times Atlanta United has thought about Charlotte FC since winning the inaugural matchup on March 13. Charlotte FC on the other hand seems to think about Atlanta United quite a bit, inexplicably including a photo of Martínez in their win graphic against New England Revolution because... well, templates are hard.