Atlanta United, welcome to MLS.

The expansion team, in front of a sold-out crowd of 55,000, fell 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls on Sunday night at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium in its first game in North America’s top-flight soccer league.

Atlanta United had numerous chances to put away the game, but failed to do so and the New York Red Bulls, the Eastern Conference’s best regular season team the past two seasons, made them pay.

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Yamil Asad will forever be the answer to the trivia question over who scored the team’s first goal. He latched onto a long cross by Tyrone Mears right in front of the team’s supporter’s section,in the first half. Daniel Royer scored the tying goal for the New York Red Bulls in the second half. An own-goal by Anton Walkes deep in the second half proved the winning score.

On hand was league commissioner Don Garber, who said he was left speechless by the atmosphere when he entered the stadium 10 minutes into the game.

Five observations about the game:

The starting 11. Manager Gerardo Martino surprised many with one choice in his starting 11: Julian Gressel. The rookie, picked eighth in the first round of the SuperDraft, was selected ahead of Jeff Larentowicz, who had made more than 300 appearances in MLS, and Chris McCann, a veteran of leagues in England, in the midfield. Gressel impressed in the preseason with his passing ability and toughness. The rest of the 11 was predictable with Alec Kann in goal, Mears and Greg Garza at fullback, Michael Parkhurst and Leandro Pirez at centerhalf, Carlos Carmona at holding midfielder, Asad, Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba in the midfield, and Josef Martinez as the lone striker.

Just three of Atlanta United’s starting 11 had MLS experience: Kann, Parkhurst and Mears.

Gressel’s lack of experience may have been exposed in the second half when he failed to successfully track Royer on a corner kick in the 76th minute. With a running start, Royer powered a header home to tie the game at 1.

Gressel described it as a “50-50” ball that Royer won by outjumping him.

First goal. Asad scored the first goal in Atlanta United's history, giving his team a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute.

The goal came on a cross from right fullback Mears to the back post, where Asad poked it past Luis Robles into the goal.

Asad scored two goals in the preseason, though neither were like Sunday’s history-making effort.

Asad is a native of Argentina who is on loan to Atlanta United from Sarsfield in Argentina.

The offense. Atlanta United had difficulty gaining control early as the Red Bulls kept the game in its offensive half.

Atlanta United started to find some scoring chances, particularly after its first goal when the Red Bulls were forced to chase the game in an attempt to get a an equalizer.

Pirez floated a beautiful pass to Garza down the left wing. He spun a cross six yards from goal that Martinez shot, but goalie Luis Robles got down to his left to parry it away with a reflex save.

Atlanta United missed another chance the 52nd minute when Almiron and Villalba, steaming down the right wing, couldn’t hit the right combination of passes to get a shot off.

Almiron unsuccessfully tried to chip the ball over Robles in the 67th minute in a one-on-one opportunity on another break by Atlanta United.

The defense. There were times in the preseason, particularly against MLS teams Columbus and Seattle, when Atlanta United's defense looked more shaky than solid.

When the defense was split, Kann was there. He made a tremendous save early in the second half, pushing a high shot over the cross bar.

But then the defense and Kann began to crack, making three errors that led to the Red Bulls’ first goal

First, Atlanta United didn’t close down a New York Red Bulls player, giving him time to shoot. He hit a hard shot that knuckled slightly as Kann went to make the save. Kann also said he saw it late. The ball bounced off his hands and away. It was cleared for the corner that led to the goal by Royer.

New York scored again when Mike Grella hit a back-heel pass that totally fooled Atlanta United’s defense. Kemar Lawrence ran onto the ball in the penalty box and crossed it to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who got tangled with Anton Walkes. Walkes was credited with an own-goal. Both players were falling over each other just four feet from the goal.

The defense wasn’t helped when Carmona was shown a straight red card in the 88th minute. Martino said he wasn’t given an explanation for the red card and that he didn’t see the play.

The support. Fans congregated in two areas before the game: the parking lot at The Varsity and the South plaza at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Both areas featured people packed elbow to elbow, with supporters wearing red-and-black jerseys, scarves hats or some of all three.

Some fans wanted their photo taken with the giant Atlanta United logo. Others asked to be photographed with the hosts of a pregame radio show. The lines were three-to-five deep to form a tunnel for Atlanta United’s players to walk through as they moved from the team bus into the area containing the locker room.

The four supporters groups collaborated on a team banner that featured a golden phoenix on a black background. Above the phoenix was the word “United.” Below was the word “Conquer.” The two words have been a theme the team has used on social media. The banner was unfurled just before kickoff.

The players praised the crowd for its support with Garza saying it reminded him of a game between the U.S. and Mexico in San Antonio.

Here’s how to read the AJC’s coverage of Atlanta United:

Web: On the Atlanta United channel on

Facebook: On our Facebook page at Atlanta United News Now.

Twitter: Follow Doug Roberson on twitter @DougRobersonAJC.

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