Bienvenue Kanakimana may have cooled down, but Jackson Conway has picked up the slack in the scoring department for ATL UTD 2.
Conway ran his goal-scoring streak to 3 matches in the 59th minute, and Brendan Moore recorded a key penalty save in the 82nd as ATL UTD 2 staved off a late score by Swope Park Rangers to win 2-1 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. Friday’s victory marks the first time in the team’s brief history that it has won back-to-back home matches, with its third straight non-losing home result its longest run since going 2-0-2 to end the 2018 season.
“I think any issues in the first half were from our own doing. I think we moved the ball slower than we were hoping to. We were less creative in the final third,” said ATL UTD 2 coach Stephen Glass. “In the second half you saw a more positive performance, albeit (Swope Park) came into the game as well, but that’s always going to happen because they have a good young team that’s vibrant over there.”
The first half was a bit slow as neither Moore nor Swope Park keeper John Pulskamp were given truly heavy tests over the first 45 minutes. That changed with just over a half-hour of regular time remaining in the contest as Luiz Fernando dealt a beautiful ball into the box to Conway. The 17-year old found himself one-on-one with Pulskamp and first-timed it perfectly for his fifth goal of the year.
“I can see personally my confidence has definitely gone up,” said Conway. “Whether it starts in training doing finishing at the end, I’ve definitely tried to do a little bit of that. I think it’s proven in the games that I am feeling that confidence and I know when the time comes, I can shine.”
In the 74th minute, self-inflicted damage by Swope Park led to an own goal off a touch from Jake Davis to double ATL UTD 2’s margin to 2-0. Davis gained a measure of redemption in the 81st minute as he won a penalty against Academy youngster Garrison Tubbs, but the attempt by Alexsander saw Moore guess correctly to preserve the shutout.
Swope Park would eventually get on the board in the 87th minute through Wilson Harris, but Atlanta were able to see it out for three more points in front of its home fans. And despite a lengthy winless streak earlier in the year, maybe a postseason berth isn’t out of the question: the club is 6 points out of the 10th and final spot in the East with 11 matches remaining.
“If we can sneak into the playoffs, I’m not sure there are many teams that want to face us in the playoffs,” said Glass. “I’m trying to put that into the group. Can we fight our way to where we are at least still alive in a playoff race in the last five or six games? Let’s see what we got.”
ATL UTD 2 next head to Hartford Athetic before returning home for three straight matches. Kickoff in Connecticut is set for next Saturday at 5 p.m.