Atlanta United 2 failed to make it three wins on the trot against one of the USL Championship’s top teams in the Tampa Bay Rowdies Wednesday at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, losing by a final score of 4-1.
Winger Dion Pereira, one of Atlanta United’s offseason signings from Watford who made his MLS debut just four days prior to Wednesday’s match, assisted his opposite wide man Luiz Fernando to open the scoring and give Atlanta United 2 the lead. It was Fernando’s first goal in an Atlanta United 2 shirt and Pereira’s first assist in the USL.
“It’s a crazy feeling to make my debut of course,” Pereira said after the match speaking about his last four days since making his first MLS appearance. “You train every day to get your debut so it’s an amazing feeling. Training every day with the first team, obviously your confidence goes through the roof each day. Coming down here, it’s another confidence boost for myself.”
Tampa Bay Rowdies’ left wing back Leo Fernandes leveled the match just a minute before halftime through an assist from Andrew Tinari. Perreira found himself under pressure in his own defensive third and committed a turnover in midfield leading to the transition opportunity for the visitors, and the mistake
The mistake didn’t stop Pereira though, as he forced Rowdies goalkeeper John McCarthy into a sprawling save after dribbling around a defender in a one-on-one situation and driving a shot on frame in the 52nd minute.
Tampa Bay grabbed its first lead of the game in the 67th minute against the run of play. The visitors’ first shot of the half rattled off the near post and deflected into the path of a retreating George Campbell who unluckily scored the own goal.
The own goal was unfortunate in a vacuum, but even more so considering Campbell’s performance on the night, which was nothing short of heroic. Campbell made five of Atlanta’s six tackles in the first half, and stopped a 1v1 goalscoring opportunity early in the second half with an inch perfect slide tackle retreating in front of his own net.
“He’s been great again. A couple of tackles were proper last ditch ones,” said his manager Stephen Glass after the match. “He gets himself back in a position to defend. Obviously we’re open at times when we go forward, but George was ready. Big Flo [Florentin Pogba] was ready as well tonight.”
The performance has become a trend for the young academy player who is showing that he has the quality for a professional contract if he wants one. Campbell has committed to play at the University of Maryland, but isn’t bound to that commitment.
“Another pleasing performance from a young guy coming out of the academy,” Glass added about the 17-year old center back. “And the fact the team loses four goals, he’s probably sitting there thinking he could’ve done a little bit better, but that’s the sort of guy he is. He puts demands on himself and that’s why he’s going to be a top player.
The Rowdies sealed the result with two late goals by Juan Tejada in the 87th minute and Brandon Allen in the 90th minute.