Giakoumakis, Thiare keep Atlanta United unbeaten at home

Atlanta United forward Giorgos Giakoumakis (7) signals the crows as he celebrates with midfielder Saba Lobzhanidze (9) after scoring the first goal of his team during the first half against the Chicago Fire at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, March 31, 2024.
 Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Atlanta United forward Giorgos Giakoumakis (7) signals the crows as he celebrates with midfielder Saba Lobzhanidze (9) after scoring the first goal of his team during the first half against the Chicago Fire at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, March 31, 2024. Miguel Martinez /

Giorgos Giakoumakis’ opening goal kept Atlanta United unbeaten at home with a 3-0 victory against Chicago on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The goal was Giakoumakis’ fifth this season and 22nd scored during the regular season in his MLS career, moving him into second in franchise history by breaking a tie with Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba. Giakoumakis left the match in the second half with a possible injury to his right knee after knocking knees with a Chicago player in the first half. Giakoumakis could be seen walking around the locker room after the match. Manager Gonzalo Pineda said the player would undergo tests.

Jamal Thiare subbed on in the second half added his first goal for the team with his first touch as a nice gift for his 31st birthday, which was Sunday. He added his second and the team’s final in the 95th minute. Saba Lobjanidze was credited with assists on the first two goals.

“I’m happy that I scored on my birthday and I’m happy how it turned out,” Thiare said.

Atlanta United (3-2-0) improved to 3-0 at home with nine goals scored and one allowed. Brad Guzan posted his second consecutive shutout at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and 80th in his MLS career in front of an announced attendance of 42,525.

“I think the biggest point was going forward and putting them under pressure to create chances,” Guzan said. “I think when you look at the performance in itself, I think it could have been a lot more than three chances and so that’s what we want to do.”

With six players returning from international duty, Pineda fielded almost his strongest possible 11. Giakoumakis started at striker with Thiago Almada as the attacking midfielder and Xande Silva and Lobjanidze on the wings. Bartosz Slisz and Tristan Muyumba were the central midfielders, Brooks Lennon and Caleb Wiley the fullbacks, Derrick Williams and Noah Cobb the centerbacks, and Guzan in goal. The only notable absence was centerback Stian Gregersen, who suffered a left knee injury two matches ago and has since undergone successful surgery.

Giakoumakis pressed Chicago into a turnover at the eighth minute. Lobjanidze took the loose ball and drove at Chicago’s goal. His shot bounced in the box. Giakoumakis jumped in to try to poke home the loose ball. He appeared to suffer an injury to his right knee when it got caught under a Chicago defender during Giakoumakis’ lunge. After trainers examined Giakoumakis, he left the match in the 12th minute. He returned in the 13th but had a noticeable limp. Thiare began warming up but stopped and sat down in the 16th minute.

Giakoumakis continued to favor the knee for a few minutes but alleviated any concerns when jumped high over Chicago’s Carlos Teran to try to get his head on a cross from Lennon in the 29th minute. It was Atlanta United’s 11th shot.

The Five Stripes took their first lead on their 15th shot, a tap-in by Giakoumakis from a cross by Lobjanidze in the 45th minute to earn a 1-0 lead. It was Lobjanidze’s second assist this season. Lobjanidze attacked down the left and just before he reached the endline he caught up to a pass from Silva and put in a left-footed cross that Giakoumakis reached three yards from goal. Silva was given a secondary assist, his second this season.

After he scored, Giakoumakis copied Lobjanidze’s goal-scoring celebration where he points at an imaginary wristwatch.

“He looks so sharp,” Lobjanidze said. “I’m so happy; if he will score every game, he can take ‘Saba time,’ no problem.”

Pineda said if not for that goal, the second half might have been much different.

Chicago dominated the opening 10 minutes of the second half but couldn’t create any high-percentage chances.

Chicago subbed on midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, one of its Designated Players, in the 60th minute in its attempt to create a tying goal. Pineda brought on Jay Fortune, Edwin Mosquera and Thiare for Slisz, Silva and Giakoumakis, who sat down on the turf again in the 62nd minute, in the 63rd minute.

Thiare scored on a header in the 65th minute, off a cross from Lennon to the back post. It was Lennon’s third assist this season. Lobjanidze was also given an assist, giving him his second multi-assist game with the club.

“After that, of course it felt more comfortable for us,” Pineda said.

Chicago’s Teran was shown a straight red card for a tackle of Mosquera near midfield in the 84th minute. During the stoppage, Luis Abram and Dax McCarty subbed on for Wiley and Muyumba in the 85th minute to see out the match.

Atlanta United outshot Chicago 20-11, put more shots on goal, 7-3, and finished with a higher expected goals, 3.8-0.7.

“I think we were the better team because we created more chances,” Pineda said. “But there are some parts of the game that I’m not completely happy.”

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 Atlanta United 2, Orlando 0

March 23 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 0

March 31 vs. Chicago, 3:30 p.m., FOX

April 6 at NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

April 14 vs. Philadelphia, 2:30 p.m., FOX

April 20 vs. Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

April 27 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.

May 4 vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.

May 11 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

May 15 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

May 18 at Nashville, 1:30 p.m.

May 25 vs. LAFC, 7:30 p.m.

May 29 at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

June 2 vs Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FOX

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.