The best start to a season in Atlanta United history? Yes please.
The Five Stripes traveled up I-85 for the Crown and Coke Clasico (I’m running with it, shoutout to Mike Conti for bringing attention to this one) and completed a statement win in their first away match of 2023.
Fully unpacking this match will be done extensively in the coming days, but a clean sheet, a road win, a homegrown brace, a designated player goal, and an overall enjoyable performance is a phenomenal way to boost morale in the squad. The momentum will be important as the club returns home to play Portland in a week and hopefully extend their franchise-best start to an MLS season. In fact, just take a minute to revel in this for a moment....it feels good.
And how about Caleb Wiley? The 18 year old homegrown winger had a stellar match, netting a brace and assist and making history in the process. He became the 4th youngest player in MLS to have three goal contributions in one half.
With his three goal contributions in the first half, @ATLUTD's Caleb Wiley became the fourth-youngest player (18 years, 79 days) in @MLS history to produce at least three goal contributions in one half of a match. pic.twitter.com/yegeUH04CC— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) March 11, 2023
Wiley started cooking breakfast early and put the good guys on top in 4 (!) minutes after being left woefully wide open by the Charlotte defense.
Ladies and gentlemen... Caleb Wiley pic.twitter.com/Y483BEfTPW— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 11, 2023
He didn’t stop there, though, as he netted an assist only a few minutes later after winning the ball in Charlotte’s final third and playing a horizontal ball over to Luiz Araujo. The Brazilian took a touch to set up his prime left foot and slid it into the near post.
GOLAÇOOOOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/7sktM7zkhi— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 11, 2023
Charlotte seemed to find some footing as the first half drew on, forcing a few spells of pressure and sending in a handful of crosses that Atlanta’s defense had to snuff out. A penalty shout was initially given to Charlotte after Kamil Jozwiak completed whiffed on an attempted volley inside the box, and Brooks Lennon, who had turned his body to avoid getting drilled in the face by the ball had Jozwiak made contact, lightly bumped into him. Referee Ismail Elfath was asked to check the VAR monitor, though, and the call was rightly overturned.
The closing seconds of the first half brought one of the prettiest Atlanta United goals in recent memory, starting with Miles Robinson as such a calm and collected presence on the ball. He played it forward to a wide open Almada who carried the ball forward past midfield before sending it out wide to Araujo. Luiz then sent it back across the top of the box to a continually running Almada who dummied it and left it for Caleb Wiley to calmly slot it home.
Things you absolutely love to see: THIS pic.twitter.com/WXI9n9uSho— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 11, 2023
The Five Stripes kept Charlotte at bay through the second half, and though there were some spells of possession and sustained attack by the home team, they were never able to break through.
The overall Atlanta United performance was just incredibly positive, fun, and encouraging. This is the third week they’ve drastically improved their game, and with the known difficulty of winning away in MLS this particular result is just that much sweeter. Everyone with the club who spoke throughout the week seemed incredibly confident about pulling a win from Charlotte, and they did so in excellent fashion. Now it’s time to carry over that swag into match week four when the Portland Timbers come to the Benz.
A variety of factors kept the quotes from Pineda and the players from coming through fully, but check out a small portion of what Pineda had to say below.
Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda:
On if this was this the best game he’d seen the team play offensively and defensively
Today was one of the most complete games. Was it perfect? No, we weren’t disrupting their pressure or dominating possession. But, I’m happy with blocking shots and crosses and being good in transition.
On rating Caleb Wiley’s performance
It’s a team sport and everyone is important. The team plays well. You will see individuals shine, for example Thiago last week. Great performance by Caleb, he was very good defensively and we are very high on him and think he will be a great player, and hopefully this game gives him more confidence.
On the team’s mentality
[It was a] good start and good effort from the bench. The players aren’t selfish, playing more of a role in the team. I have full belief in all my players and we are happy with the performance.
As usual, be sure to go listen in to the post-match Twitter Spaces show as the Scarves and Spikes crew chatted with the fans about this really fun afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina. Let us know in the comments what you thought about the match!
Had us a fun chat today after this 3-0 AWAY WIN OVER CHARLOTTE!!!!!!! Go give it a listen and make sure you’re following the @ScarvesNSpikes guys while you’re at it— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) March 11, 2023