Just as contested as the first team’s match against fierce rivals Orlando City SC, Atlanta United Unified Team’s game vs their Florida counterparts had plenty of opportunities from both sides.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium was honored to receive both teams to cap the night, following a 1-1 draw by the MLS teams earlier in the afternoon. It was the first official match of the 2022 season for the Atlanta United Unified Team, after having played two scrimmages against Charlotte FC, losing one away and winning the second one at home with goals by Kelly Robinson and Steven Russell.
The First Half – Orlando scored two quick goals to dominate the half
Orlando City’s César Aponte started knocking on the door very early in the sixth minute with a long-range shot from distance which was impressively saved and sent to the corner by Atlanta’s goalkeeper Anthony Hernández. Five minutes later, it was Hernández again who saved another long-range shot and after blocking the ball, it rebounded off from the post.
However, in the 14th minute, Aponte scored the opening goal of the match. Following a free kick which, the attacker took advantage of a bouncing ball inside the box and Aponte tapped it in to give Orlando the advantage.
Two minutes later, Aponte scored his second goal after a pass that split the defense in two. It was enough for Orlando City to take the lead going into the first 20-minute half.
But the game was far from over.
Second half – Impressive comeback from Atlanta who never gave up
In the 27th minute, David Wilkerson took a free kick straight into the center of the box which was deflected with a header by Orlando City defender Sasha Forget. The own goal came in the best moment for Atlanta United as it started dominating the game and gaining more possession of the ball.
Even though Orlando continued to pressure Atlanta’s defense, the two ladies in the back Regan Lunstedt and Grace Chaplan put up an impressive wall, and thanks to their work ten minutes later the attacking half took notice.
It was Michael Mastrangelo who found the tying goal for Atlanta in the 30th minute. A beautiful cross by Wilkerson ended up in a rebound close to goal, and Mastrangelo took a blistering shot placed near the bottom left corner past the Orlando goalkeeper.
Orlando City continued to look for a goal that would give them a breather and as Aponte was looking for his hat trick with a right footed shot, Hernández stretched himself impressively to send the ball out of bounds.
Xavier Hairston had one more chance to give Atlanta the lead at the death after dribbling past two defenders and taking a shot on goal which was saved at the line by the Orlando goalkeeper.
The 2-2 draw means Atlanta United begins the Unified season with a strong comeback and will now travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts to play against the New England Revolution Unified Team on October 1, following the MLS First Team match between New England Revolution and Atlanta United.
The Atlanta United Unified Team presented by Gallagher is a team of athletes (kids with intellectual disabilities) and partners (kids without intellectual disabilities) that come together every year to play soccer in an inclusive manner. In order to enhance the unified experience, the team is given MLS team treatment when it comes to training, competition, travel and coverage.
The Atlanta United Unified team is closely tied to the first team by players who serve as First Team Unified Ambassadors, attending practices and cheer the Unified Team on at matches. This year, Brad Guzan returns for his fourth year as a Unified Ambassador and Santiago Sosa for his first season with the team.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the Atlanta United Unified Team.