The red, black and gold hit the field for the very first time today, and the team didn’t disappoint as MLS expansion club Atlanta United travelled to Tennessee and routed NPSL side Chattanooga FC in a 4-0 preseason victory.
For the first time in history, Atlanta fans were able to witness 11 players take the pitch. Head coach Tata Martino lined his squad up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and the much anticipated starting XI included: Alec Kann (GK), Greg Garza (LB), Leandro González Pirez (LCB), Michael Parkhurst (RCB), Tyrone Mears (RB), Chris McCann (LCM), Jeff Larentowicz (RCM), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Yamil Asad (LM), Tito Villalba (RM), and Kenwyne Jones (ST).
Atlanta wasted no time in leaving their mark in Chattanooga as their first goal came in just nine minutes. After a Kenwyne Jones headed clearance, Atlanta United’s No. 10 Miguel Almirón pursued the loose ball and carried it all the way to the opposite 18-yard box before splitting two Chattanooga defenders with a pinpoint pass to teammate Tito Villalba who slotted home the first goal in club history. By the pure elation on the faces of the players, you could tell it was a moment they would never forget.
As the half continued, it was obviously a Tata Martino coached side as Atlanta United maintained the majority of the possession and kept Chattanooga chasing. But the game’s real defining moment of awe came in the 36th minute when the club’s left winger, Yamil Asad, curled a beauty into the top far corner from 20 yards out.
Halftime arrived with a 2-0 score line advantage to Atlanta.
An ordinary preseason halftime would be uneventful, but the club used their first ever game as an opportunity to reveal their secondary kit. At the start of the break, a number of dedicated traveling supporters received Golden Boxes labeled with the club’s mantra “Unite & Conquer”. But little did they know, inside held a treasure they will cherish for the rest of time. After the fans opened up the secondary kit, the astonishment only elevated as the team walked out of the locker room sporting the new look.
Tata Martino made a sweeping wholesale substitution at half as the team returned to the field with a brand new kit and essentially, a brand new eleven. Other than Josef Martinez (ST) and Carlos Carmona who centered near the end of the first half, the fresh personnel included Kyle Reynish (GK), Mikey Ambrose (LB), Anton Walkes (LCB), Miles Robinson (RCB), Mark Bloom (RB), Kevin Kratz (RCM), Julian Gressel (CAM), Jacob Peterson (LM), and Andrew Carleton (RM).
Atlanta’s momentum didn’t halt as the second half group mimicked the success of the first half’s team, tallying another two goals to the lead.
In the 68th minute, Atlanta United’s second overall MLS SuperDraft pick Julian Gressel whipped in a dangerous cross, and diving to meet the ball was the club’s recent DP signing Josef Martinez who shattered it in the back of the net.
The score line remained 3-0 until just six minutes later when 16-year-old Homegrown Andrew Carleton put the icing on the cake and netted an unassisted goal, sure enough right in front of his team’s own raving traveling fans.
Martino was pleased with his squad’s efforts in their first game despite at times a lack of final execution, but that’s only to be expected of a young team. Though not against the strongest opponent, in Atlanta’s first 90 minutes, the team garnered four goals and a clean sheet, a strong initial performance nonetheless.
Many milestones marked in one day for Atlanta United: the first game, the first goals, and a launch of the second ever kit. It’s safe to say the trip to Chattanooga will always be ingrained in the memories of the club and its fans.