Sometimes it takes a hero to turn a certain defeat into a sweet victory. That hero came for Atlanta United in the form of Thiago Almada who scored two long-range goals in stoppage time to secure a 2-1 win in the season opener against San Jose Earthquakes.
The lineup was very reminiscent of the one used in Atlanta’s preseason games with the difference of Jackson Conway starting at striker to replace an injured Machop Chol. New signings Derrick Etienne Jr, Luis Abram and Miguel Berry were available off the bench and played some minutes in the second half. However, the club’s latest Designated Player signing, Giorgos Giakoumakis, was unavailable due to visa issues.
Here we go, 17s! Our Starting XI for tonight's match vs. @SJEarthquakes pic.twitter.com/G5bPiQCKym— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) February 25, 2023
It was the Quakes that made the opening statement after a cross by Cristian Espinoza got past Brad Guzan to a waiting Jeremy Ebobisse who headed it home to give the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute.
For the remainder of the first half, Atlanta battled to get on level terms. They received a golden opportunity in the 37th minute when Atlanta United was awarded a penalty after a San Jose handball, but Luiz Araújo was unable to even put the shot on frame. With that, the score at the half remained 1-0 in San Jose’s favor.
The second half saw much of the same as the first half with Atlanta creating chances, but finding themselves unable to finish them off. Shot after shot was hurled at the San Jose goal to no effect.
Enter World Champion Thiago Almada.
After a short corner kick delivery found the Argentine attacker at the edge of the box, he curled it home to tie the game in the 93rd minute for Atlanta United.
But the action didn’t stop there. Just minutes later, Almada lined up a direct free kick just outside the 18-yard box and delivered it straight into the top corner to edge the Five Stripes in front in the 99th minute.
The crowd went wild, the smoke went up and Atlanta earned its first three points of the season in the most dramatic way possible.
Make no mistake, there is much that needs to be fixed. Did Atlanta deserve the win? Probably not. Did they play better than San Jose? Definitely not. But a win is a win, no matter how it comes.
What are your thoughts on the game? Let us know in the comments below!