Sunday’s match with the Capital Area Railhawks was an emotional roller coaster for the Atlanta United U18’s. An early 2-0 deficit was overcome, United took a 3-2 lead, but could not hold it against a ten man team and conceded the equalizer in stoppage time. If the recurring theme of the Atlanta United academy so far has been learning lessons, the team added a few new ones today.
The Railhawks went up 2-0 in the first 15 minutes on goals by Alex Rose and Lucas Del Rosario. Both goals were the result of high pressure causing defensive mistakes. On the ensuing kickoff after the second goal, you could hear a Railhawks player yell, “Let them play in the back, then step.”
United began to bypass the midfield, playing more vertical than they usually do in an attempt to beat the Railhawks’ pressure. It began to pay off with a few chances before Mike Ille broke through in the 25th minute. Lagos Kunga beat two players in the middle before laying off a short pass to Victor Pereyra-Zavala. Ille made a smart run off the back shoulder of his marker and Pereyra-Zavala found him in space, Ille beat the goalkeeper with a low, hard show to the far post.
Machop Chol nearly equalized after a superb turn after receiving the ball on his chest, his left footed shot forced a diving save.
Chol created the equalizer. His deep cross found Ille inside the box. He beat the defender 1v1 and drew contact to earn a penalty kick. Ille calmly stepped up and scored on the PK in the 34th minute to level the score at 2-2.
Atlanta opened the second half on the front foot and took the lead in 40 seconds. Chol again was the provider, beating his defender on the left side and firing in a low cross to the near post. Patrick Okonkwo volleyed the cross first time, beating the goalkeeper to the near post to put United into the lead 3-2.
It appeared the result would be academic after the Railhawks had a player sent off in the 48th minute. A yellow card for dissent was followed up with a second yellow after the dissent continued.
Atlanta was unable to put the game away with the man advantage though. The extra space was exploited consistently going forward, but chances were either poorly taken, rushed, or simply off target. As so often happens in these situations, the missed chances came back to haunt United as a cross from the left was slotted in by Emanuel Perez to tie the game. Atlanta had time for one last attack, but Pereyra-Zavala’s shot was blocked in the dying seconds of the match.
United will have two weeks to work before their next match. They will be hosting cross town rivals Concorde Fire on Saturday, October 15 at 12:00 p.m. at Pace Academy.