Atlanta United’s 4-0 victory over Chattanooga FC was a preseason tuneup en route to their regular season debut three weeks from tomorrow against the New York Red Bulls at Bobby Dodd Stadium, but there were several highlights to take from the victory in front of a strong crowd at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.
Atlanta was a little shaky to start the match (as expected, since it was their first organized game as a team) but found their legs as the action progressed. A few players that stood out were Miguel Almiron (whose pace was on showcase during the course of play), Yamil Asad, and Kenwyne Jones. But the historic first goal (preseason, but we’ll give it to him) went to Hector Villalba in the 9th minute. On a terrific counterattack led by Miguel Almiron, the midfielder passed it over to Villalba, whose first shot was turned aside by CFC keeper Kyle Zobeck - but the Argentinian knocked in his own rebound to make it 1-0. In the 36th minute, they doubled their margin on an absolutely beautiful highlight reel strike by Yamil Asad that made it a 2-0 contest.
“I just received (the ball) really fast, controlled it, and turned it into a shot,” said Asad. “Overall (today) I thought the team did really well. We completed the goals and expectations that we had (coming in).”
The second half gave the youngsters a chance to see some time, and a couple of players that impressed were homegrown player Andrew Carleton and SuperDraft pick Julian Gressel. Gressel found himself forward on the attack on several chances, while Carleton was strong in possession and created a chance with a beautiful pass along the right side. In the 68th minute, Gressel found the scoresheet as he found Josef Martinez in the box, and the Venezuelan forward finished nicely with a diving header to make it 3-0. Carleton would then find himself with a goal of his own in the 73rd minute on a misplayed cross by Zobeck to make it 4-0.
“It was a dream come true just to be able to get out on the field and to be able to play,” said Carleton. “I was happy with how the team played and how I was able to perform to get onto the scoresheet and to be able to contribute to the team as best I can.”
“The feeling that I have is that the players that played in the second half are going to make it difficult on the guys that played on the first team”, said manager Gerardo Martino. “The goal is to find the best form and arrive in that form for March 5.”
Atlanta United heads to Charleston for the annual Carolina Challenge Cup. They’ll open against Columbus Crew next Saturday at 4:30pm.