Atlanta United 2 tied Charlotte Independence 3-3 Saturday night at the Sportsplex at Matthews behind Romario Williams’ hat-trick. In a match that saw 37 total shots taken, Charlotte erased a 2-0 deficit and took a 3-2 lead deep in stoppage time, but Williams scored his third goal of the match in the 90+4 minute to split the points.
“I think we had several opportunities to put the game to bed, and then as a group defensively, just not quite good enough to withstand the pressure,” ATL UTD 2 head coach Stephen Glass said. “Charlotte ended up coming back and getting themselves in front, but the one good thing I think at the end is the spirit that the team had to go and get the point – the belief and the want to go and score the goal to tie it.”
ATL UTD 2’s attack wasted no time after the opening whistle and scored the fastest goal in team history. Jack Metcalf played a long ball aimed at Jon Gallagher where he flicked it on for Brandon Vazquez down the right side. Vazquez played Gallagher into the penalty area as the Irishman cut the ball back to the center of the box for Williams where he buried a right-footed shot into the top-left corner just 36 seconds into the match.
Charlotte responded in the 19th minute when Andrew Gutman nearly scored with a header from a set piece, but his attempt was caught by goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira in his professional debut for his first save. The Independence had a pair of chances hit the woodwork with the first coming in the 28th minute after Aaron Manud’s volley off a corner kick hit the left post. Later in the 40th minute, Enzo Martinez had a shot clip the right post.
Despite Charlotte’s pressure, ATL UTD 2 finished the second half with seven shots in the final 11 minutes, including Williams’ second goal of the night which came in the 42nd. The play began with Anderson Asiedu picking the ball up in the midfield and making a long run to the left corner of the field. The rookie midfielder drew a pair of defenders before delivering a pass to Williams at the top of the 18-yard box. The Jamaican striker stopped the ball with his back to goal, turned to his right while sending a defender sliding and found himself one-on-one with Charlotte goalkeeper Brandon Miller where he calmly slotted the ball into the bottom-right corner for a 2-0 lead. Williams nearly completed his hat-trick before the half when he tried to one-time a cross from Vazquez in stoppage time, but his attempt hit the left post.
The Independence broke through in the 75th minute through forward Dominic Oduro. Martinez sent in a cross from the right side for Oduro, who was left unmarked in the center of the box. Ten minutes later Charlotte substitute Kevan George equalized. From a corner kick, Hugh Roberts had his header cleared off the line by Gallagher. Alex Martinez headed the ball back into the penalty area where George headed the ball just over Castanheira to tie the match. Charlotte took the lead in the 90+3 minute. Jake Areman lobbed a cross into the middle of the box that fell directly to Jorge Herrera who headed in the go-ahead goal.
With only seconds remaining, Williams completed his hat-trick in the 90+4 minute. Gordon Wild crossed a ball in from the left side that was cleared, but Asiedu corralled it on the right side of the box. The Ghana native supplied a pin-point cross to the head of Gallagher, but his close-range attempt was right at Miller. However, the ball fell to Williams where he tapped it into the net for the equalizer.
ATL UTD 2 (1-1-1, 4 points) returns to action Saturday, April 6 against Saint Louis FC at 7:30 p.m. EST at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. The match will be streamed live on ESPN+.