Atlanta United returned to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to open a three-game homestand with the first all-time meeting with Austin FC on Saturday. Austin FC proved why they have the best road record in MLS, and Atlanta United fell 3-0 to the second-place team in the Supporters' Shield race.
First Half – Atlanta United controls possession, Felipe scores second straight goal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
All three designated players for Atlanta United were in the starting lineup for head coach Gonzalo Pineda. It was the second consecutive match, and the first time at home, that Josef Martínez, Luiz Araújo and Thiago Almada made the start together. Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff opted to start the match with his two leading goal scorers, Sebastián Driussi and Maximiliano Urruti, on the bench.
Atlanta United started play with a lot of energy, taking the first shot of the match in the second minute. However, Austin FC quickly showed how it became the highest-scoring team in MLS this season. Midfielder Ethan Finlay crossed the ball into the box and midfielder Felipe Martins directed a well-placed header for a goal in the ninth minute. It was Felipe’s second straight goal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He scored in his previous visit last season when he played for D.C. United.
Austin FC went up two goals in the 17th minute. The visiting side got the ball out wide and midfielder Diego Fagúndez served a ball into the box. The cross dribbled through Atlanta United’s backline and the six-yard box. Defender Caleb Wiley failed to clear it away from the far post and Finley rushed in to finish it off from close range.
In the first half, Araújo was shown a yellow card. It’s his fifth of the season, so he will be suspended for Atlanta United’s next match.
Atlanta United maintained 67 percent of the possession and completed nearly 89 percent of its passes in the first half. However, Austin FC was the more dynamic, clinical side in the final attacking third, scoring twice on two shots on goal.
Second Half – Sebastián Driussi scores for Austin FC to lead MLS, Juanjo Purata makes his debut, Atlanta United fights for chances down three goals
Both teams made substitutions at the half. Pineda sent on Marcelino Moreno for Ronaldo Cisneros. On the other side, Driussi and Urruti entered the match for Austin.
The subs were part of the third goal for Austin FC in the 57th minute. In a transition moment, Atlanta United was outnumbered in the back. Urruti had space and his shot whipped off the crossbar. His attacking counterpart Driussi was there to collect the rebound and drive it home past Rocco Ríos Novo. It was Driussi’s 11th goal the season, which now leads MLS.
It was a long hill to climb for Atlanta United down three goals, the first time the club has ever trailed by that many at home in MLS play, but the attack had several promising chances in the second half. In the 60th minute, Atlanta’s defenders got involved. Alan Franco pushed wide and lofted a cross into the box. George Campbell put a header on goal, but Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver made the save.
Later in the 65th minute, the 5-Stripes missed a big-time chance. Moreno, Araújo and Martínez connected on a well-developing counterattack. The ball ended up with Araújo, but his shot on goal was saved.
Defender Juanjo Purata made his club and MLS debut, coming on as a substitute for Atlanta United in 67th minute. The center back joined the club on loan from Tigres, a professional club in Mexico.
Atlanta United took 19 total shots but ended the night scoreless. The club moves to 5-8-5 on the season.
Up next – Atlanta United returns home for midweek matchup then Heineken Rivalry Week
Atlanta United continues the homestand with a midweek match against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, July 13. Then, the club hosts Orlando City SC for Heineken Rivalry Week on Sunday, July 17.