The dawning of the 2022 Atlanta United season marks many firsts in the Deep South for the year: optimism for a deeper roster, a raucous Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Georgia’s first of 2.5 false springs, and of course a week’s worth of Five Stripes’ recap every Friday. This was enjoyable to craft last season because it felt like a fun way for the avid fan to summarize all of the weekly news while perhaps enlightening a newcomer to everything related to the Kings of the South, so welcome back! One notable addition Dirty South Soccer has this year, in case anyone is unaware, is our post-match Twitter Spaces; we’d be delighted to have any of our readers on to chat, ask questions, gripe, celebrate, and just hang with Sydney, Stephanie, Tommy, and myself.
Week 1 of the MLS season arrived with a bang, as each team looked to immediately place a stamp in their respective conferences. Some flourished, some fizzled, but Atlanta United had a busy week leading up to a very successful opening day with the Forest Kit tour, while the 2’s continued to beef up their fitness with preseason minutes. The club truly felt like it was entering the first match day with a ton of optimism, and supporters were treated to a smorgasbord of emotions by the time the first 90 minutes were played. Without further ado, let’s dive into everything you need to know about Atlanta United’s Week 1.
Atlanta United Wins Season Opener Against Sporting Kansas City 3-1
As an Atlanta United fan, we probably couldn’t have asked for a better match for opening day. There was some worry leading up to Sunday’s game with various players either listed as out or questionable, including (but not limited to) 2021 workhorses Marcelino Moreno, Santiago Sosa, and Brooks Lennon with injuries, Alan Franco with a red card carry over, and Thiago Almada working on his legal paperwork.
Turns out, the whole “next man up” philosophy was not taken lightly, and plenty of newcomers and youngsters got their chance to absolutely show out in front of 67,523 supporters at a rowdy Mercedes-Benz Stadium. As the match started, however, the massive crowd fell to a hush as everyone observed a moment of silence for Christian Carrillo, our Academy goalkeeper who passed away in a tragic accident just a few weeks ago. This was accompanied by a moving tribute at halftime, and his parents were welcomed to Arthur Blank’s booth for the match. The players also wore black armbands in honor of the young man. Prayers to Christian’s family during this incredibly difficult time.
With a starting XI of Guzan, Josef, Araujo, Wolff, Rossetto, Alonso, Hernandez, Sejdic, Campbell, Robinson, and Gutman, things got off to a brisk start. The Five Stripes showed plenty of poise and control, while being quick to jump on opportunities in transition when they were presented. The entire mindset of the team looked much more fluid than 2021, which is entirely a credit to Gonzalo Pineda and his implementation of his ideas and concepts. They exhibited plenty of pressure, and did well playing out of opposing pressure to open up space. It didn’t take long before Atlanta was sitting up 1-0 on it’s first goal of the year, through a combination by none other than Josef Martinez and the human highlight-reel, Luiz Araújo.
Luiz unfortunately would be subbed off moments later with a hamstring injury, but that’s when every expectation for the rest of the match disappeared entirely. Dom Dwyer, former Sporting Kansas City and Orlando City player himself, entered the match. Shortly before halftime he went from double-agent Dom to Atlanta United folk hero with this beauty of a goal.
Sporting Kansas City would come back to make it interesting late in the second half, but not before one Andrew Gutman put a cap on his stellar debut with some stout defending that literally earned him a standing ovation from the crowd.
And finally, as if the evening needed any more surprises, we were able to bear witness to another club historical moment. Young 17-year old Caleb Wiley, who has been with Atlanta United through the Academy and as a homegrown since he was 12, entered the pitch to help ice the game. Moments later he found himself on the receiving end of an absolute dime of a pass by Marcelino Moreno and slotted this one home in front of his hometown crowd. I’ve included a second video here because it truly shows what makes this game, and especially this club, so beautiful; one can almost feel the pride from seeing Wiley’s parent’s reactions to his goal.
An emotional moment for the Wiley family pic.twitter.com/CEsKOUysWk— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) February 28, 2022
Josef Martinez was credited with two assists on the day, Moreno and Wolff with one each, while Gutman enjoyed Man of the Match honors and Josef was presented with the Golden Spike. George Campbell also had a particularly outstanding game as another homegrown, and overall the team just looked fun. It’s hard to ask for a better way to start a season.
Luiz Araújo Set to Miss Approximately 4 Weeks
The one damper on opening day was definitely the hamstring injury to Luiz Araújo. The club confirmed on Tuesday that he would miss approximately four weeks, but it’s worth noting that muscle injuries, especially hammies, are notoriously difficult to gauge. The good news is the team still looked more than capable against one of the top scoring offenses of 2021 without him on the pitch, though the speed and pressure he brings will be missed while he recuperates. Additionally, the team has the added benefit of the World Cup Qualifier window coming up, so even though Luiz is slated to miss four weeks, he could potentially only have to miss three games. Here’s hoping to a quick recovery and no lingering issues.
As for other injuries, there hasn’t been a ton of word from the club on specifics with Mulraney or Sosa, though the latter continues to rehab while also working on paperwork in Argentina. It was very encouraging, and rather surprising, to see Mando Moreno and Lennon get meaningful minutes in this first match, so hopefully we continue to see them more and more as they recover and build up fitness. Emerson Hyndman continues with his ACL rehab process, and not much has been mentioned about Franco Ibarra short of him also working on paperwork and nursing an injury from one of the preseason matches in Mexico.
Atlanta United Forest Kit Tour
The week leading up to Atlanta United’s first match was ripe with intrigue about the newest away kit. Dubbed the Forest Kit, it sports a white base adorned with a dark green and cool mint pattern and is named after one of Atlanta’s many nicknames, “The City in the Forest.” To prep supporters for the new kit and new season, the club launched the Forest Kit tour around the city. This consisted of a takeover of American Family Insurance in Marietta, a classic “5-Stripe Friday” at Piedmont Park, and a block party at Pratt Pullman Yards during the week before the match. It continues March 5th with a viewing party at O’Sullivans Pub in Decatur and a pop-up at the Plaza Fiesta Mall on Buford Highway on March 6th.
If you’re interested in catching the last couple of days of this event, check the details here. Also, check out the launch video for the kit, which explains in detail the story behind the kit itself. Though I haven’t been able to confirm this, I’m fairly certain the voiceover was recorded by Atlanta/Fayetteville native Gary Anthony Williams, who you may know as Uncle Ruckus from the Boondocks. It it isn’t him, he clearly has a voice-twin.
Atlanta United 2 Prepares With Two Preseason Matches
Atlanta United 2 hosted Tormenta FC on February 26th in another preseason match as the USL side builds up its fitness for the start of the season in early March. The game seemed fairly even for the majority of time, as both the 2’s and Tormenta switched up personnel and tactics. Robbie Mertz, Darwin Matheus, and David Mejia all looked set to open the scoring throughout the first half, but they continued to be just a step off as they shake off the winter cobwebs. Meanwhile, Tormenta continued to torment Jason Longshore in his attempts to simply see player names on jerseys while commentating, as Trialist 3 notched an assist to Trialist 9 to score the lone goal of the match.
On Wednesday the 2’s faced off against Chattanooga Red Wolves, where Jack Collison continued to cycle through the players to get them valuable minutes against another genuinely good opponent. In probably the strangest two paragraphs I’ve ever written about the beautiful game, it was yet another Trialist who would be the deciding factor in this match as Chattanooga would go on to win 1-0.
Interestingly enough, the match would end in a flurry of red cards being shown to trialists and signed players alike, so there was no shortage of entertainment in the last ten minutes. The 2’s are back in action tomorrow at 1 P.M. against the Greenville Triumph in their final preseason match, which you can watch on Twitch here.
Atlanta United 2 Signs Three New Players
#ATLUTD2 announces three new signings!— ATL UTD 2 (@atlutd2) March 2, 2022
Welcome Nick Firmino, Raimar Lopes and Nelson Orji
Speaking of the 2’s, it has to be noted that they made three very important signings this week. Nick Firmino, Raimar Lopes, and Nelson Orji all bring experience to the backline and midfield, and they round out what is shaping up to be a solid USL side. Firmino has made appearances with New England Revolution II and Omaha Union, while Raimar is coming from Athletico Paranaense. Finally, Nigerian defender Orji is arriving with his own set of dreams to become the most expensive African defender ever. More power to you, Orji.
It’s unclear at this point if any of the new signings, besides Firmino, will be available against Louisville City on opening day. Firmino was a part of the squad against Tormenta and he was an available sub against Chattanooga, so he’ll surely be set to enter the squad quickly.
There it is, y’all, the Week 1 recap of all things Atlanta United. The Five Stripes have made it to Colorado where they prepare to take on the Rapids at 6 P.M. Saturday. We’ll be live on Twitter Spaces moments after the final whistle, so please don’t hesitate to jump on and have some fun with us. ‘Til next week.