In a match where ATL UTD 2 controlled possession and saw bright spots on attack despite not being able to find the net, it took a late own goal from Charlotte Independence keeper Andrew Dykstra on a distant strike by Shawn Nicklaw to help turn a 1-0 deficit into a 1-1 draw. That was the story from Coolray Field as Atlanta played its first home match since a wild 5-4 win over Toronto FC 2 on May 16.
After an optimistic-looking attack by ATL UTD 2 to start, Eamon Zayed scored for Charlotte off a corner to put the Independence up 1-0. Atlanta were a little more active in attack as the half progressed, but couldn’t get the tying goal in the net as it was unable to put that final ball on frame to truly challenge Dykstra.
ATL UTD 2 began to turn up the attacking pressure around the 60th minute as a couple of great chances to level the match from Andrew Carleton and Devon Sandoval went wanting. That changed in the 79th, as a thunderous strike from distance by Shawn Nicklaw deflected off Dykstra and in the net for the tying goal.
Atlanta could have scored a potential winner in the 90th minute off an Andrew Carleton free kick, but Sandoval’s chance on the other end of it rang off the post.
As for Nicklaw’s goal, some questions remained as to whether he should have been credited with the goal, but in any event, it was a goal nonetheless.
“Once I had a little bit of space, I thought 'I might as well have a go here',” Nicklaw said. ”Once you have enough space at the top of the box, you have to shoot. We didn’t really test the keeper from far tonight, so why not in that situation.”
Atlanta were backstopped by a solid performance in net by U.S. boys’ national team keeper and academy product Justin Garces in his professional debut. The 17-year-old faced 12 shots, stopping 3 of the 4 that were put on frame to help his team to a point.
“I think he grew in confidence as the game went on and made a couple big stops late,” said coach Scott Donnelly. ”One on (a)deflected shot and then he comes to punch the last service. He did well and I am also not surprised.”
“I felt pretty good tonight,” Garces said. ”We started off on the back foot conceding an early goal, but I feel like we turned that around and the team did well in the first half and came back in the second half.”
ATL UTD 2 have a short turnaround before its next match against the Ottawa Fury on Saturday. Kickoff for that one is set for 7pm in Gwinnett. They’ll likely be without Jack Metcalf (groin) and Lagos Kunga (ankle sprain) in the final match before a two-week break.
ATL UTD 2 Starting XI: Justin Garces, A.J. Cochran (C), Andrew Kendall-Moullin, SHawn Niclaw, Jose Hernandez, Ollie Shannon, Laurent Kissiedou, Chris Goslin, Yosef Samuel, Andrew Carleton, Devon Sandoval
Substitutes: Gallagher 73’ (Samuel); Carranza 78’ (Kissiedou)
Bench: Jackson Conway, Paul Christensen, Kevin Barajas, Jose Carranza, Will Crain, Jon Gallagher, Chad Letts