Win against Chicago shows this Atlanta United different from last year

Credit: MLS

Atlanta United won its home opener of the 2021 season, 3-1 against Chicago at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Credit: MLS

The stats don’t quite support the argument but, in today’s world, belief seems to weigh more than facts so when Jake Mulraney and Ezequiel Barco say that they aren’t sure that Atlanta United would have rallied to defeat Chicago 3-1 on Saturday if this game were played last year it comes across as true.

After taking a 1-0 lead against Chicago on a fantastic goal by Barco at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Fire scored a forehead-slapping equalizer just seconds into the second halfLast season, Atlanta United was 1-4-3 when tied at the half, which Saturday’s basically was because Chicago scored so quickly in the second half, and 0-3-3 when tied at 75 minutes..

It sent out a 2020 feeling to more than 20,000 supporters in the stands and those in the pressbox because it was a goal that should have been avoided. Two Five Stripes defenders had an opportunity to clear the cross. Neither did. Goal, 1-1.

“Even when they scored, it was like, probably last year, at this time, we would have crumbled, but this year, at this time, it’s just different,” Mulraney said. “We went back onto it.

Last season, Atlanta United was 1-4-3 when tied at the half, which Saturday’s basically was because Chicago scored so quickly in the second half, and 0-3-3 when tied at 75 minutes.

That was last year, which finished with Atlanta United failing to make the playoffs for the first time and searching for a new manager and several new players.

Saturday, led by manager Gabriel Heinze, Atlanta United took a 2-1 lead in the 66th minute on an own goal by Johan Kappelhof, who was part of a group of Chicago defenders who failed to deal with a low, hard cross by Marcelino Moreno.

Atlanta United extended its lead in the 85th minute on a goal by Emerson Hyndman after a fantastic run by Jurgen Damm and patient play by Mulraney in the penalty box, who spun around the ball until he could find the space to get of a shot. It was blocked but Hyndman pounced on the loose ball for an easy goal.

“I think last year, we may have reacted differently to conceding a goal,” said Barco, who scored Atlanta United’s first goal. “But tonight, you saw this group wanted to go and get the win. We went out in the second half to win the game and do what the coaching staff was asking of us. That shows what this group is made of.”

Heinze said that getting players to believe that they have to compete for the whole game is among the toughest teachings for a manager.

“I have a way of thinking in this sport that you have to give everything you have with some ideas, some ways, responsibility and tremendous effort,” he said. “And then, I think the answer is the player accepts that, which is one of the hardest things for players to accept. Then they will keep fighting until the last minute. The first example is the people around them.”

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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

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

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

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