Head coach Gonzalo Pineda wanted one strong victory, and his team delivered on Saturday night. A hat trick from striker Ronaldo Cisneros lifted Atlanta United to a 4-1 win over Chicago Fire FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The result extends Atlanta United’s streak of going unbeaten at home to 12 matches.
“I feel very happy more than anything for the team’s win,” Cisneros said. “Obviously, the three goals make me happy, but we were able to get a win after three games without one, so the victory of the team is most important.”
Atlanta United opened the scoring early with a goal in the third minute. Luiz Araújo passed the ball up to Cisneros, who struck a high shot that Chicago goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina got a piece of with his outstretched hand. The deflection dinged downward from the other side of the crossbar and over the goal line.
The play was the result of a beautiful combination in open play between three of Atlanta United’s playmakers, Araújo, Thiago Almada and Marcelino Moreno. Araújo was credited with the assist and Moreno the secondary assist.
It was the quickest goal the team has scored this season.
“The team, as talented as it is, it works very hard," Pineda said. "But I think the reward has to come. So I think that togetherness was present in today’s game.”
The Fire equalized in the 11th minute. Midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri sent a low cross and forward Chinonso Offor finished it from close range to even the score 1-1.
Cisneros’s second goal arrived in the 27th minute. Rossetto passed the ball wide to Moreno and got it right back. Near the end line, Rossetto quickly delivered a low shot near post. Cisneros was nearby to collect the rebound off the keeper’s block to put Atlanta ahead 2-1 with his second goal.
Atlanta United went up 3-1 in the 36th minute. Almada sent a long through ball to Cisneros, who was making a vertical run. The striker outmaneuvered Slonina with the dribble to set up a right footed shot that secured his third goal of the first half.
With the hat trick, Cisneros becomes Atlanta United’s leading goal-scorer this season. He has four goals in the last three matches and has made just four starts in MLS.
Cisneros is the third player in club history to score a hat trick in MLS.
“Even Ronaldo today, he had the reward of the three goals,” Pineda said. “We had three, but that’s because he’s always running behind, chasing, pressing and that is always the reward for the team."
Brooks Lennon added to Atlanta United's multi-goal performance in second half stoppage time. The defender struck a firm, left-footed shot in the upper left corner.
The win comes after a difficult stretch of the schedule and is the first win for the team since April 1 against D.C. United. During April, Atlanta scored just three goals in MLS competition, even though they often possessed more and created more chances. Today was no different in terms of possessing the ball. Atlanta United finished with 61 percent of the possession and took seven shots on goal.
“The stats say this was a very similar game to the last few,” Pineda said. “It was just today we had the fortune to score the goals and to be clinical. But I don’t think there was anything particularly different to what we try every weekend.”
Although the team had the strong, multi-goal performance it’s been looking for, it comes at the unfortunate hands of another injury to an integral starter. In the first half, center back Miles Robinson went down and had to be carried off the pitch on a stretcher. Robinson was replaced by Alex De John in the 18th minute.
Up next, Atlanta United returns to competition in the U.S. Open Cup with a Round of 32 matchup against Nashville SC on Wednesday, May 11.
HAT TRICK! Ronaldo Cisneros scores three goals during the first half vs Chicago