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Atlanta United defeats Georgia Storm 2-0 in preseason opener

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It was smooth sailing for the Five Stripes in the first competitive minutes of the season.

Atlanta United defeated the Georgia Storm 2-0 in two 30-minute halves Tuesday from the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta training ground as the team kicked off their preseason competition.

The goals were both scored in the first half — the first by Tyler Wolff and the second from Jackson Conway. Gonzalo Pineda deployed a starting unit of his best available players in a 4-2-3-1.

Several players were out of action and unavailable to participate in Tuesday’s action. Six players were on international duty — Caleb Wiley, Miles Robinson, Brooks Lennon, Machop Chol, Ronald Hernandez and Josef Martinez. Several other players were out for other reasons — Erik Lopez and Ezequiel Barco have permission to be away from the team, George Bello recently returned from international camp and was being rested, Jake Mulraney is still sorting out his green card and Jurgen Damm was also held out. Marcelino Moreno was stepped on in training the day prior and was also out of action. Emerson Hyndman and Santiago Sosa are still training individually as they are at the final stages of longer-term rehabilitation.

The first half was all Atlanta United as the team swarmed and won the ball back immediately upon losing possession time and again. And possession was mainly being lost when the team had a chance at goal. New left back Andrew Gutman was heavily involved on the left flank, making his way toward the edges of the penalty area to serve in passes. Tyler Wolff was actively getting forward in possession — often looking like a second forward who only dropped back to win the ball (which he did on several occasions) when the team was out of possession.

The team’s second goal of the half was the jewel of the game. Defending a corner, the ball squirted out to the right flank where Tyler Wolff hit a sliding pass to keep the ball in play up the line to Luiz Araujo. Araujo carried the ball roughly 20 yards while drifting inside until he released Conway in behind the Storm’s defense with a splitting through ball. Conway reached the ball as it rolled into the penalty area and struck it with his first touch past the keeper with power.

Gonzalo Pineda used a completely different XI for most of the second half that looked like this:

GK: Bobby Shuttleworth

LB: Mikey Ambrose

CB: Alex De John

CB: Noah Cobb (Academy)

RB: Bryce Washington (Homegrown Player)

DM: Efrain Morales (Homegrown Player)

CM: Amar Sejdic

CM: Franco Ibarra

LW Darwin Matheus (ATLUTD 2…. And pretend it says that in the graphic, too)

RW: Daniel Bloyou (Superdraft pick)

ST: Tola Showunmi (Superdraft pick)

Overall, the second half was a much more even and muddled affair, but the standout for Atlanta United had to have been its lone Academy player Noah Cobb. Cobb was composed at the back, aggressive defensively and physically imposing given his age. Also of note, Efrain Morales seems to have transitioned into a more natural defensive midfield role after struggling at times in the past with Atlanta United 2 when deployed as a central defender.