A long awaited goal having been added to his account, Patrick Okonkwo was overflowing with relief after ATL UTD 2’s 3-2 victory over Ottawa Fury FC at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw on Saturday evening.
“I’ve been literally waiting for this moment for a long time. A long, long time,” said the 21-year-old, who scored his first professional goal with the Atlanta United organization after five goals during a loan spell with the Charleston Battery last year. “My intention today was to come out, do my best and hopefully I’d get something out of it. It’s just something that I’ve been hoping for a long time.”
And while ATL UTD 2’s gameday roster was sprinkled with first team players with MLS on its international break - Kevin Kratz, Mikey Ambrose and Alec Kann among those that started - this match belonged to the homegrown players.
ATL UTD 2 got the scoring started early - very early, in fact. Kratz served a ball up for Andrew Carleton inside of 18 seconds, with the Powder Springs native finishing from an acute angle past Callum Irving to open the scoring.
In the 26th minute, Okonkwo’s time finally came. Jack Metcalf’s cross from the right hand side saw Amir Bashti’s close-up attempt saved by Irving, but Okonkwo was there to put the rebound home to double the margin.
Ottawa found the match’s next two goals on a penalty from Wal Fall in the 39th and a Hadji Barry equalizer in the 70th to make it 2-2. But it didn’t stay level for long as Carleton pounced on a mishandled cross by Irving to put Atlanta ahead for good in the 72nd and see its three-match losing streak come to an end.
“I know (Okonkwo) was super happy,” Carleton said of his fellow homegrown’s goal. “We’ve played together since I was 14. To be playing in a professional environment together, it’s a pretty cool expeerience to be able to be both on the scoresheet.”
“That’s my ‘boy’ for life, to be honest,” Okonkwo laughed when asked about his relationship with Carleton. “We hang out together outside of football. It’s a blessing to be around him. We live in the same apartment and talk a lot, and him scoring two goals today is a big relief for him.”
ATL UTD 2 hit the road to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Rowdies next Saturday. Kickoff for that one is set for 7:30 p.m.