Atlanta United's preseason continued Saturday on the road up 316 in front of a sold out crowd at Turner Soccer Complex at the University of Georgia. The 5-Stripes created plenty of chances with their two groups of XI that played 45 minutes each and finally converted in the 90th minute, a goal from Jamal Thiaré, to draw even with Memphis 901 FC 1-1 in a sunny but cool afternoon in Athens, Ga.
Head coach Gonzalo Pineda's starting XI
Josh Cohen, Ronald Hernández, Luis Abram, Noah Cobb, Brooks Lennon, Tristan Muyumba, Bartosz Slisz, Nick Firmino, Xande Silva, Saba Lobjanidze, Giorgos Giakoumakis
Pineda's starting XI meant Bartosz Slisz made his first appearance in preseason play. The Polish international signed with the club in January and completed his visa process this week, making him available to join the team in training.
Josh Cohen also started the friendly for the 5-Stripes. The new goalkeeper played some minutes in the first preseason match during the club's 2-1 win in Birmingham. Both of the goal scorers in the friendly against Birmingham Legion, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Nick Firmino, joined the starting group for the match in Athens. Giakoumakis served as captain.
A face Atlanta United supporters might recognize on the other side of the pitch was midfielder Emerson Hyndman. Hyndman was part of Atlanta United from 2019-2023. The midfielder went through some tough injuries during his time in Atlanta and made a long journey back, so it was a good moment to see him back on the pitch. Hyndman wore no. 4 in white.
Memphis 901 FC, led by former Atlanta United 2 and first team interim head coach Stephen Glass, opened the scoring in the third minute of play. After Lucas Turchi carried the ball up the field, he sent a swinging ball toward the right side of the box. The pass fell to striker Nighte Pickering and he drilled a shot into the upper corner to make it 1-0 Memphis.
Slisz in his preseason debut created one of Atlanta United's most promising moments with a ball over the top to Saba Lobjanidze. The Georgian winger brought the ball inside the box, but his shot was thwarted by a Memphis defender. The two internationals would later connect on a corner kick, Lobjanidze serving it in and Slisz rising to flick it across the 6-yard box that forced a clearance from Memphis.
Fullback Brooks Lennon played well and got involved in several attacking moments. He combined with Lobjanidze on a give-and-go on the right flank. Lennon sent a low cross that met the feet of Giakoumakis, but the striker’s shot went right to Memphis goalkeeper Tyler Deric. Lennon showed great effort, winning the ball back around midfield, to help Atlanta United regain possession.
Atlanta United sends on new group for second half of play
Despite some promising moments, Atlanta United was held scoreless in the first 45 minutes of play. A new XI entered the match to start the second half: Brad Guzan, Matt Edwards, Derrick Williams, Efraín Morales, Aiden McFadden, Matías Gallardo, Jay Fortune, Javier Armas, Tyler Wolff, Luke Brennan, Jamal Thiaré
This second group had a golden moment on a set piece. Javier Armas with his right foot sent a high ball to the far post that Derrick Williams rose to connect with. However, Williams's header went high.
Minutes later, in an exciting moment, Armas and Matías Gallardo led the buildup to create a 2-on-1 situation for Atlanta United deep in their attacking third. Tyler Wolff, from the corner of the 6-yard box, threaded a shot past the goalkeeper, which appeared awfully close to a goal, however it was cleared right at the line by a Memphis defender.
In the 79th minute, Atlanta United produced one of the team's best chances all afternoon. Wolff slipped a pass to Jay Fortune streaking up the pitch. Fortune crossed the ball in front of goal where Luke Brennan was running on. Brennan had a close-range shot and the frame ahead of him, but a heavy touch sent the shot sailing over the crossbar. In the 88th minute, Gallardo slipped another nice through ball to Wolff for a chance inside the box, but the ball was cleared away.
Pressing for the equalizer and creating some of the most exciting moments of the day, Atlanta United finally found the back of the net with seconds remaining in regulation. Following a Memphis goal kick, Armas popped a headed pass in the direction of Jamal Thiaré. The striker was 1v1 with the goalkeeper and slotted a low driven shot to even the scoreline 1-1.
Up next – Atlanta United continues preseason in the Sunshine State
Atlanta United travels to Florida for the final two weeks on the preseason schedule. The team will play three preseason friendlies there, starting with a matchup against MLS side CF Montréal on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Then, Atlanta United goes up against the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Saturday, Feb. 10.
Both matches will be streamed on atlutd.com/live.