No Messi, no problem and other things learned in Atlanta United’s win

Atlanta United forward Giorgos Giakoumakis (7) reacts after scoring his team’s fourth goal against Inter Miami at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Atlanta. Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Atlanta United forward Giorgos Giakoumakis (7) reacts after scoring his team’s fourth goal against Inter Miami at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Atlanta. Miguel Martinez /

Winning 5-2 certainly helped, but Atlanta United’s players didn’t seem to care too much that Lionel Messi didn’t play for Miami in Saturday’s MLS match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“We don’t care about Messi,” Xande Silva said. “We care about us, you know. We want to be in the playoffs and that’s what we are going to do.”

Captain and goalkeeper Brad Guzan was slightly more diplomatic.

“(They) have some really talented players, and (Messi) did not play, but that is not our issue to deal with, or worry about,” he said. “We had to worry about the 11 players they did put on the field, and the substitutions they made for those players, but they have signed some quality players during the summer transfer window, so their team looks a lot different than the beginning of the year, so we knew whoever was going to be in that starting 11, they were going to be a threat. We had to make sure we were up for the game either way.”

The team’s play reflected that they were up for the game.

After giving up a world-class goal to Leo Campana to fall behind 1-0, Atlanta United blitzed Miami with three goals in an eight-minute span. Miami clawed back to make it 3-2 on a questionable penalty call, only for Atlanta United to seal the win with two more goals.

Guzan and manager Gonzalo Pineda stressed how important the team’s response was. Before Saturday’s match, Atlanta United was 1-6-5 this season when conceding the first goal.

“I could not be more proud of the team,” Pineda said. “The mentality of the team is something we talk about a lot during training sessions and message during film, so I cannot be more proud of my team. Tonight, they showed heart, passion, intelligence, good football, but also, they showed a good mentality.”

With the win, Atlanta United (12-8-9) remains in sixth in the East. It trails fourth-place Philadelphia by two points. Atlanta United will play at D.C. United (9-12-8) on Wednesday.

The new faces. Atlanta United’s summer signings continue to positively impact the results.

Tristan Muyumba’s goal in the first half tied the match at 1 and his defense helped to neutralize Sergio Busquets. Xande Silva’s play on the wing continues to befuddle opposing defenders and Thiago Almada someone to play off. Saba Lobjanidze came off the bench to record two assists on goals by Giorgos Giakoumakis and Tyler Wolff.

“They have been very impactful, and I have been saying that for a couple games now,” Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “Kudos to the front office, the scouts, and Carlos (Bocanegra), they have been doing a great job. I have been witnessing this process, data, and filtering to put players in the best positions and scout various continents, while also looking at the personal aspects of the players, such as their culture, how they behave as human beings, how they are in the locker room, and we are asking questions to people we know, and then the final stage of picking the best player and making it happen requires a lot of process.

“Now, we are enjoying many good players, good human beings, good leaders, and I think that is a good combination for signings, and they have been impactful, so it is good to have all of that during the last part of the season.”

The returns. Neither Gerardo Martino nor Josef Martinez got the result they had hoped for in their first returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but both said it felt good to be back.

Martino managed Atlanta United through the 2017 and ‘18 seasons, leading them to the MLS Cup in 2018.

“The city and the club are places we had two great years and we feel really respected and loved,” Martino said. “Obviously I’m sad because we lost and we came to compete and win if it was possible. But coming back is always special.”

Martinez was named MLS MVP in 2018. He is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. His contract was bought out during the preseason. He then signed with Miami. He was honored with a message on the halo board before Saturday’s match and a loud ovation from the crowd. He entered as a second-half sub.

“I’m happy,” he said through an Miami communications staff member. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go exactly how I thought it would, but beyond the result I wanted to thank the people who supported me. I couldn’t thank them enough for the love they gave me. They are always in my heart.”

The records. Several records or notable franchise achievements happened during the game.

Thiago Almada set a franchise record with his 15th assist;

Lobjanidze became the first player to have two assists as a sub.

Brooks Lennon set a new career-high for goals with his fourth.

Muyumba scored his first goal.

Caleb Wiley set a new personal best with his third assist.

Wolff extended his personal-best mark with his fifth goal.

The team’s three goals in eight minutes tied for the second-fastest trio of scores in franchise history. They scored three goals in seven minutes against the Galaxy and NYCFC in 2017.

The team set a franchise-record with seven assists (MLS honors the secondary, or hockey, assist).

“It was a very good performance by everyone individually, and collectively,” Pineda said.

The attendance. Saturday’s announced attendance of 71,635 was the ninth-largest in Atlanta United’s history at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:

1. 73,019 vs Portland in MLS Cup, 2018

2. 72,548 vs. LA Galaxy in August, 2019

3. 72,243 vs. Seattle in July, 2018

4. 72,035 vs. DC United in March 2018

5. 72,017 vs. Real Salt Lake in September 2018

6. 71,932 vs. Orlando in June 2018

7. 71,874 vs. Toronto in October 2017

8. 71,812 vs. Chicago in October 2018

9. 71,635 vs. Miami in September 2023

10. 70,526 vs. NYCFC in Nov. 2018

“It’s really, really great,” Lobjanidze said. “The stadium is amazing but the support here, every second you hear them, it’s really, really nice and I just want to tell them to continue like that. They are very important for us.”

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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1

March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0

March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1

March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1

April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0

April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1

April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2

April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1

April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1

May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1

May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1

May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0

May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 3

May 27 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

May 31 Atlanta United 3, New England 3

June 7 Atlanta United 0, LAFC 0

June 10 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 1

June 21 Atlanta United 2, New York City 2

June 24 New York Red Bulls 4, Atlanta United 0

July 2 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 0

July 8 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

July 12 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

July 15 Orlando City 2, Atlanta United 1

July 25 Miami 4, Atlanta United 0 in Leagues Cup

July 29 Cruz Azul 1 (5), Atlanta United (4) 1 in Leagues Cup

Aug. 20 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 0

Aug. 26 Atlanta United 4, Nashville 0

Aug. 30 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 2 Atlanta United 2, FC Dallas 2

Sept. 16 Atlanta United 5, Inter Miami 2

Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA