Atlanta United 2 scored deep into stoppage time to earn a much-deserved 1-1 draw against Indy Eleven. Academy product Dylan Gaither scored his first career USL goal in the 96th minute to secure the point, while fellow academy players Natnael McDonald and Luke Mitchell made their professional debuts.
“It is a huge moment for the team. We more than deserved that goal at the end. Obviously, it is a point, but tonight it feels like more than that.” said head coach Scott Donnelly. “They absolutely laid it on the line, and I think it is such a growth moment for many of our guys and the group at large. They deserved it.”
The three Academy products entered the match in the second half and all made contributions for ATL UTD 2. Atlanta out-shot Indy Eleven 9-1 on shots inside the box in the second half, and that pressure paid off in the 96th minute. McDonald collected a loose ball at the midfield stripe and launched a long ball towards the box. Gaither pressured an Indy Eleven defender and then pounced on the short header back to the keeper. With Fon Williams onrushing, Gaither took a touch around the keeper and slotted the ball into the empty net for the last-minute equalizer.
In a tightly contested first half, both sides had a couple of opportunities to open the scoring. Indy Eleven’s best chance came in the 22nd minute, when Mitch Hildebrandt saved a shot from the top of the box off the foot of Soony Saad. ATL UTD’s best look of the period came in the 45th minute off a counterattack. Laurent Kissiedou ignited the play, while Alessandro Castro’s right-footed shot forced a diving save from Owain Fon Williams.
Indy Eleven looked dangerous in the opening minutes of the second half and opened the scoring in the 53rd minute. Ayoze hit an in-swinging corner kick from the right side that was met by Karl Ouimette in the six-yard box and the defender buried the header to give Indy Eleven the 1-0 lead.
ATL UTD 2 was unfazed and went right back on the attack looking for a quick response. In the 71st minute, Jon Gallagher was on the end of Devon Sandoval’s through ball and drove a low shot by the keeper, but an Indy Eleven defender cleared the ball off the line. Atlanta continued to push for the equalizer and were rewarded late through Gaither’s goal.
ATL UTD 2 (3-13-8, 17 points) returns to action Friday, Aug. 31 against Toronto FC II at 8:00 p.m. EST at BMO Field. The match will be streamed live on ESPN+.