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Atlanta United wins at the death 2-1 against Chicago Fire 

Game-winner_ATLatCHI_April-23

Donning blue jerseys underneath a blue sky, Atlanta United outlasted Chicago Fire 2-1 on Sunday after an own goal by Chicago went in during the dying moments of the match. The late game-winner, along with the fifth goal from Giorgos Giakoumakis in as many starts for the club, helped Atlanta United maintain its unbeaten streak at home on the season.

Heading into second-half stoppage time even at 1-1, Atlanta United pressed to find the winning goal without several of its starters, including leading scorers Giakoumakis and Thiago Almada who had been subbed off earlier in the half. The game-winner arrived on an Atlanta United corner kick taken by Brooks Lennon. After the ball ricocheted off Juanjo Purata, it bounced off the back of Chicago's Maren Haile-Selassie and went in for an own goal. The last-gasp goal in the 99th minute was the latest scored in Atlanta United history.

"It was a last minute goal, so I was so happy for the team," Purata said. "Even if we didn't play well, we all know that, but the only important thing is we never stopped fighting and we earned three points."

Atlanta United got out to an early 1-0 lead in the 13th minute when Giakoumakis scored his fifth goal of the season. After dominating the possession for most of the opening minutes, Almada found Lennon's vertical run on the right flank. The World Cup winner played a brilliant long ball and Lennon made a beautiful effort to run down the pass and keep it in play. Lennon's cross into the box found Giakoumakis in prime position. The Greek striker took a touch to control the ball then knocked it past Chicago goalkeeper Chris Brady to give the 5-Stripes the early lead.

With the goal, Giakoumakis extended his scoring streak to five consecutive matches and joins Taylor Twellman as the only players in MLS history to score in their first five starts. With the secondary assist, Almada recorded his sixth assist of the year and now leads MLS with 10 goal contributions in just seven matches played.

But Atlanta United couldn't hold onto the 1-0 lead and conceded a goal to Chicago in the 90th minute. After turning the ball over, Atlanta's defense was unable to organize in time and allowed a ball through the backline. Atlanta United goalkeeper Clément Diop, who made his club debut entering the match at halftime for starter Quentin Westberg, came out to stop the first shot from Kacper Przybylko on a breakaway. However, the Fire corralled the rebound from Diop’s block and found Przybylko still inside the box. This time, the defender’s shot went in.

Atlanta United kept a first half clean sheet with Westberg in goal. In his second consecutive start, the goalkeeper made two saves, including one in the 37th minute to deny forward Kei Kamara a goal against his 27th MLS opponent. Gonzalo Pineda was forced to make a substitution at halftime due to a leg injury to Westberg, and Diop replaced him in goal. Tasked with coming on late to preserve the win, Diop made two saves himself in the second 45.

"It's not easy for a goalkeeper to come in that moment of the game with that amount of pressure and do what he did," Pineda said. "He did a great job. So very happy with his performance. It's as always, we message the players that it's about everyone. Anyone can impact the game at any moment. They have to be ready for the opportunity. Clément is one that trains very hard every day, and today he had a huge reward."

Diop was among several substitutions Pineda made in an effort to manage the minutes for some of the starters. Caleb Wiley, Miguel Berry, Machop Chol and Franco Ibarra all entered at various points in the second half. They replaced Derrick Etienne Jr., Giakoumakis, Almada and Luiz Araújo. On the whole, it was a challenging day for the group in terms of finding its rhythm and maintaining possession.

"I felt we didn't have our best game," Pineda said. "Probably we had one of the worst I've seen, especially on the ball. We never had rhythm on the ball. We never could really connect good sequences of passes. Possession, there were moments in the first half but certainly we lost the control for a big majority of the game. So I was frustrated with that."

It appeared that Andrew Gutman opened the scoring and notched his first goal of the season for the 5-Stripes in the 5th minute. Some patient passing on the right side of the pitch led to a nice ball over the top from Almada. Giakoumakis ran onto it and centered it to Gutman who was open inside the box. The fullback finished off the cross but the goal was waved off due to offsides.

Giakoumakis and Almada were a welcome sight in Atlanta United's starting XI after both players were listed as questionable before the match and missed some time due to injury last weekend in Toronto. Gutman also made a return to the starting lineup at fullback, filling in for Caleb Wiley who returned to the club after making his international debut for the United States men's national team against Mexico in a midweek match.

Sunday's match had a different look as both sides wore blue for the league-wide One Planet Jersey initiative. This new kit is worn one-time only as part of the partnership between MLS and adidas to raise awareness for sustainable practices and reducing plastic waste. The roof was also open at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in what turned out to be a beautiful afternoon the day after Earth Day.

Match Stats
Atlanta United
Chicago Fire  
Shots
9
12
Shots on target
4
5
Corner kicks
4
5
Fouls committed
7
12
xG
0.91
1.35
Possession
57
43
Passing accuracy
83
82

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