Fielding a team featuring several inexperienced players, Atlanta United defeated Charleston 2-1 on Saturday in the finale of the Carolina Challenge Cup.
Charleston is Atlanta United’s affiliate in the USL, which made for some interesting matchups because Romario Williams, an Atlanta United player, tied the game for Charleston just before the half. That offset a goal by Yamil Asad early in the first half.
Atlanta United was eliminated from being able to win the Cup after Columbus defeated Seattle 2-1 in Saturday’s first game. The Crew won the trophy after finishing with seven points (two wins, one tie). Atlanta United finished with six points.
But Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino went for the win by substituting in Jeff Larentowicz, Michael Parkhurst, Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba in the second half.
He was rewarded when Villalba put a left-footed shot in from a cross by Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu in the 90th minute.
Here are four observations about Saturday’s game against Charleston:
The Starting 11. Martino said he was going to use the players who hadn’t gotten a lot of playing time in the previous three games and he did. The starters were: goalkeeper: Kyle Reynish (33 years old), fullbacks Mark Bloom (29) and Mikey Ambrose (23), centerhalves Miles Robinson (19) and Anton Walkes (20), midfielders Carlos Carmona (30), Kevin Kratz (30), Jacob Peterson (31), Julian Gressel (23) and Andrew Carleton (16), and striker Asad (22).
Another headed goal. Asad gave Atlanta United a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute with a headed goal off a cross by Mikey Ambrose. It was Atlanta United’s third headed goal this preseason. Josef Martinez had the previous two.
Asad was starting as a lone striker for the first time this preseason after starting as a left winger two times previously.
The young players. Bloom’s cross to Asad was good. Walkes’ slide tackle of a dangerous run by Charleston’s Heviel Cordoves in the penalty box early in the first half was a nice piece of skill and judgment in a potentially dangerous spot.
Just as they showed against Chattanooga, Gressel, Carleton and Bloom showed a good understanding of each other’s movements in the first half. One of the two were able to spring the third into space a few times with passing sequences.
Carleton freed Peterson for a shot in the 38th minute that was put over the cross bar by a timely sliding tackle from a Charleston defender.
Carleton continued to dazzle in the second half with slalom dribbles through Charleston’s defense. He had back-to-back shots in the 73rd and 74th minute that just missed giving Atlanta United a 2-1 lead.
Carleton drew a foul from Jeffrey Otoo, on loan from Atlanta United, in the 78th minute, 30 yards away.
Williams, 22, showed what he can do with a goal in the 45th minute with a hard-struck right-footed shot across the goal and into the left corner.
After starting solidly, Robinson and Walkes had some panicky moments in the second half as Charleston pressed for win.
The older players. Carmona, in his first action since Chattanooga, did the job as a holding midfielder. He picked up a yellow in the 60th minute after a hard tackle.
Bloom was up and down the right wing in the first half, as was Ambrose on the left side.
Reynish almost gifted Charleston a goal when he dribbled way out of the box before passing it to Walkes, who tried to pass it back to Reynish, only to see it intercepted by Maikel Chang. He lost the ball and Reynish recovered to pick it up.