A thunderous goal by Ezequiel Barco that he unfortunately didn’t get to see, a meek own goal, and an opportunistic shot by Emerson Hyndman lifted Atlanta United to a 3-1 victory against Chicago on Saturday in its first game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season.

Not only was it the team’s first win in its first home game this season, it came before an announced attendance of 20,335 in another sign of life slowly trying to return to a post-COVID normalcy. The team hadn’t played before a crowd that large since it hosted more than 69,000 on March 7, 2020 in a victory against Cincinnati.

“I’m very happy for the first win at home and be able to give some happiness to the supporters,” manager Gabriel Heinze said.

Atlanta United’s offense, mostly dull in last week’s opening 0-0 draw at Orlando, finished with 18 shots, five on goal. It’s the first time the team scored at least three goals since its 4-0 win at D.C. United on Oct. 3 last season.

“We were sharper in front of goal tonight,” winger Jake Mulraney said in comparting this game to last week’s.

The defense’s shutout streak was snapped at 441 minutes going back to last season but Chicago could count itself unlucky it didn’t score more because it hit the post three times with shots. Chicago took 12 shots, putting six on goal.

Heinze put out the same 11 who started last week’s game at Orlando. Lisandro Lopez started at striker with Mulraney on the right wing and Marcelino Moreno on the left. In the middle were Barco, Hyndman and Santiago Sosa. Across the back line were George Bello, Anton Walkes, Miles Robinson and Brooks Lennon. Brad Guzan started in goal.

Atlanta United head coach Gabriel Heinze reacts during the first half in a MLS soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, April 24, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

icon to expand image

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Chicago was the aggressor early and Przemyslaw Frankowski forced a kick save by Guzan that bounced off the opposite post and away to keep the game scoreless in the ninth minute.

Atlanta United took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Barco in the 23rd minute. Dribbling across the field, he won a foul in the middle of the pitch, about 25 yards from goal. His free kick was hit into the wall and bounced to the right. Barco beat Sosa to the ball and one-timed a curling shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the upper left corner. The goal came on the team’s first shot on goal. It was Barco’s 11th goal as an Atlanta United player and second in all competitions this season.

Barco said he fell backward onto the ground after taking the shot and didn’t know that he had scored until he heard the supporters cheering.

“I’m really happy that the team was able to come out with a win in a game that I thought we played well,” Barco said. “I’m happy to score a goal and be able to celebrate it with all my teammates on the bench.”

Chicago followed a few minutes later with Robert Berić stretching a leg behind him to redirect a cross with a shot that hit the post opposite the one hit in the ninth minute.

Atlanta United should have taken a 2-0 lead in the 38th minute when Hyndman missed a goal on a split-second play. The sequence started with Moreno blasting a shot that deflected off a Chicago player and then again off the near post. The ball bounced to a surprised Hyndman, whose shot to the near post went wide.

Chicago came right down and a few second later and Beric forced a save at close range by Guzan.

Heinze was forced to make a halftime sub because of an injury sustained by Lennon just before the half. Lennon collided with a Chicago player trying to win an aerial duel. Jack Gurr came on for him at right fullback. The substitution was a “concussion sub” – new to MLS this season, and didn’t count against Atlanta United’s five for the game. Lennon will be evaluated over the next 24-48 hours, Heinze said.

Chicago tied the game within two minutes on a low cross by Boris Sekulić that went just in front of Walkes, past Robinson who may have been surprised that Walkes didn’t get to it or afraid that if he touched the ball he might redirect it into his goal, and finally to Luka Stojanovic, who beat Gurr to the back post and scored.

“Times last year we would have crumbled but not this year,” Mulraney said.

Indeed.

Atlanta United rallied – something it didn’t do last year – to take a 2-1 lead in the 66th minute on an own goal against Chicago’s Johan Kappelhof. The goal was the result of a low, hard cross hit by Moreno. Kappelhof appeared to get stuck between goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and the ball. Shuttleworth missed punching the ball away and the ball bounced off Kappelhof. The ball appeared to hit Mulraney’s heel before rolling into the goal.

Atlanta United began to apply more pressure. Mulraney missed from 12 yards on the right side of the penalty box and a shot by Martinez was blocked on the left from the same distance a few minutes later.

Hyndman sealed the win in the 86th minute when Hyndman was the quickest to react to a loose ball in the penalty box following a block by Shuttleworth of a shot by Mulraney.

Atlanta United will host Philadelphia on Tuesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the home leg of their Champions League quarterfinal series. It will follow that with a game on May 1 at New England.

For more content about Atlanta United

Follow me on Twitter @DougRobersonAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta United News Now

Atlanta United coverage on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

-

Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

April 27 vs. Philadelphia, 8 p.m., in Champions League quarterfinal

May 1 at New England, 7 p.m., CW

May 4 at Philadelphia, 8 p.m. in Champions League quarterfinal

May 9 at Inter Miami, 1 p.m., ABC

May 15 vs. Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 23 at Seattle, 4:30 p.m., Fox

May 29 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 20 vs. Philadelphia, 2 p.m., ESPN

June 23 at NYCFC (at Red Bull Arena), TBD, BSSO/BSSE

June 27 vs. New York Red Bulls, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at Chicago, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 8 at Nashville, 8:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. New England, 5 p.m., ESPN

July 21 at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., FS1

July 24 vs. Columbus, 3:30 p.m., ABC

July 30 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ESPN

Aug. 4 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 7 at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 15 vs. LAFC, 4 p.m. ESPN

Aug. 18 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at D.C. United, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 28 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 10 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, B7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 18 vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 25 at Philadelphia,3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 29 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Oct. 2 at Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

About the Author