Atlanta United returned to MLS play for the first time since the June international break and picked up three points at home with a 2-0 win over Inter Miami CF led by two goals (and two assists) from Luiz Araújo and Josef Martínez.
For the second straight match, Atlanta United opened the scoring in the first five minutes. Martínez cut the ball and passed it back to an open Araújo at the top of the box. Araújo finished it off with a one-touch shot on the left side to put Atlanta United ahead 1-0 in the fourth minute.
It was Araújo’s third goal and Martínez’s third assist in MLS this season. It was the second consecutive match the two connected for an Araújo goal.
The two found each again in the 61st minute for Atlanta United’s second goal. Defender Caleb Wiley took Inter Miami 1v1 on the right side, made a cut then shot near post. Miami goalkeeper Drake Callendar blocked Wiley’s shot, but Araújo collected the rebound and crossed it to Martínez inside the box. The striker knocked it home with a high, one-touch shot to put Atlanta ahead 2-0.
"I think you guys are seeing the results and the games that we're playing, so today for us each to be able to score one feels great," Araújo said. "But it's not just us. It's all our teammates out there doing a great job."
Sunday’s lineup marked significant starts for two Atlanta United players. Rocco Ríos Novo made his first career MLS start in goal. Also, midfielder Emerson Hyndman made his first MLS start since tearing his ACL in 2021. Both started the team’s 3-2 win over CF Pachuca in the American Family Insurance Cup on Tuesday.
Ríos Novo finished the match with three saves, including a flying dive in the 16th minute on a shot from Miami forward Ariel Lassiter.
"He was comfortable, he looked in control and he didn't look like he had a ton to do, but what he had to do, he did," assistant coach Rob Valentino said. "We know Rocco and the kid and his personality. He brings a lot to the group and he doesn't show any bit his age. And I'm very happy for him that he got the performance that he got and got a clean sheet."
"A lot of joy," Ríos Novo said. "I'm really happy for everybody and also because we won the game. But now we just have to continue working because we know we have some difficult games coming up away from home. So, it doesn't stop here. We've got to continue to work."
The Atlanta defense shut down one of the league’s most dangerous scorers in Leonardo Campana, who leads Inter Miami with seven goals in MLS competition. It was the club’s first clean sheet in MLS since the 0-0 draw with FC Cincinnati on April 16.
"This is a different group now," Valentino said. "No matter what we've been through, that adversity we've been through and in some of those good moments, it's a little bit different. I think this next part of the season is going to be different in a good way for us."
Gonzalo Pineda was not on the bench for Atlanta United on Sunday. The head coach was suspended for receiving a red card in the team’s previous MLS match on May 28 against Columbus Crew. In Pineda’s place, Valentino took the lead role with support from assistants Diego de la Torre, Eugenio Villazón and Liam Curran.
The home side played two-thirds of the match up a man. In the 29th minute, midfielder Jean Mota received his second yellow card and was given a red card ejection, leaving Inter Miami with 10 men on the field.
Atlanta United next embarks on a three-match road trip. The club travels to Canada to take on Toronto FC before heading on to New York for back-to-back matches against the Red Bulls and defending MLS Cup champion New York City FC.
Highlights: Atlanta United FC 2-0 Inter Miami CF | June 19, 2022