Atlanta United 2 hit the road Saturday night for the first of four road games to close out their season. They had just come off of a challenging final home match against conference-leading Louisville City FC that they felt was one of their strongest performances in a while. Now on the road in Indianapolis, the 2s felt sure that they could not only be competitive in this match against another team in the playoff hunt, but they could also potentially steal at least one point on the road.
#ATLUTD2's Starting XI vs @IndyEleven pic.twitter.com/sIy6FQChqL— ATL UTD 2 (@atlutd2) October 2, 2021
Coach Collison ran out a very similar shape to the 4-3-3 he used to close out the match against Louisville. He turned to team captain and defensive veteran Bradley Kamdem Fewo to lead the team from the left-back position while 16-year-old academy prospect Noah Cobb returned for yet another start in his first season. Josh Bauer and Aidan McFadden lined up on the right side of the defense. The midfield had a slightly different look with Mathias Benítez returning to the starting line-up for the first time in months, this time at his favorite #10 position with Abdoulaye Diop and Jay Fortune tasked with doing the dirty work behind him. Up top, Mackey Diop returned to the target man role in the center of a 3 man attack, flanked on the left by David Mejia, and on the right by Connor Stanley.
Atlanta settled into control relatively early in the match and quickly came to dominate possession and tempo. Indy’s primary tactics seemed to be stretching Atlanta out and attempting to flip the field with their counterattacks. While these tactics have worked in the past, the 2s were allowed far more room in the first half than in those other contests.
In the 26th minute, Jay Fortune teed up a long looping ball from midfield deep into the box. There he connected with a teammate who nodded the ball back across the face of the goal but it was cleared by a defender just out to near the penalty spot. Noah Cobb came charging in and blasted a header towards the crossbar forcing a leaping save from the Indy keeper.
In the 29th minute, a defensive lapse on the right got Manuel Arteaga running free behind the defense but a quick recovery by both Bauer and Cobb forced an errant shot that was easily coraled by Rocco Ríos Novo.
The next great opportunity for the 2s came in the 36th minute as Mathias Benítez found Mackey Diop near the top of the 18. Mackey flashed his tricky footwork to shake and then burn three defenders to get in on goal but was knocked off balance as he prepared to shoot, managing only a weak chip towards goal.
The final chance of the half came off of a free kick earned by Connor Stanely on the edge of the attacking third. With bodies forward, Fortune whipped the ball into the box. A shaky punch from the keeper sent the ball right back out to Benítez who sent a rocket just wide.
43’ | Benítez gets a hold of this one #ATLUTD2 0-0 @IndyEleven pic.twitter.com/Rm6KbLAq4u— ATL UTD 2 (@atlutd2) October 2, 2021
And so the first half came to a close with all in attendance feeling the first goal of the match was drawing nigh.
Level at the half pic.twitter.com/xvKFTHMHIr— ATL UTD 2 (@atlutd2) October 2, 2021
Few would have expected that first goal to come from Indy, but when you are up against a veteran team desperate for point, things like this can happen.
ALL ABOARD THE @ManuelArteaga7 HYPE TRAIN #INDvATL pic.twitter.com/bLyD3t41Gc— Indy Eleven (@IndyEleven) October 3, 2021
Now down a goal, Collison went to the bench to bring on his little magician Darwin Matheus for David Mejia who had once again made himself a menace for the opposing defense.
The 2s continued to fight back. In the 58th minute, Connor Stanley (now on the left) slashed into the box and laid off the ball to Benítez as he charge forward, shooting just wide of the top left corner of the goal.
With momentum swinging his way and with time winding down, Collison threw more bodies forward, removing defender Noah Cobb in the 64th minute for the poaching prowess of Phillip Goodrum. This led to some nervy moments on defense that nearly got Indy their second goal but the 2s persevered and held the score at 1-0.
The final substitution of the night came in the 90th minute as Alex Garuba came in for Mackey Diop to add some fresh legs up top.
And so as the clock wound down to its final seconds, Darwin Matheus made one last charge up the left flank towards the box. There, a growing mob of white shirts waiting, timing their leaps for the inevitable cross that could change the entire narrative of the match from the missed chances to a glorious finish. The cross screamed across the face of the goal past the diving head of Aidan McFadden to Bradley Kamdem Fewo who redirected a pin-point header on goal. The keeper save the shot but spilled the ball as he went to the ground. Scrambling to his feet, Aidan McFadden blasted the ball over the keeper and into the history books.
With seconds left in the match @Aiden06McFadden rescues a point pic.twitter.com/CmVwCPOFyA— ATL UTD 2 (@atlutd2) October 3, 2021
And so the 2s got that much-needed point and set the tone for the remainder of their road trip as a dangerous spoiler to face.
Stuck with it and came away with a point in the end ⚫️ pic.twitter.com/69qbsgECX3— ATL UTD 2 (@atlutd2) October 3, 2021
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS
- Man of the Match goes to goal-scorer and all-time single-season scoring leader Aidan McFadden. Last match, we discussed how McFadden seemed to be on his way back to the same form that dominated the USL-Championship at the beginning of the summer. This match proved that that was not just a flash in the pan and could be a sign of great things to come for Atlanta United’s 2021 third-round Superdraft pick.
- We should also acknowledge how special of a player Darwin Matheus continues to be. He makes things happen when he is on the field and has a remarkable ability at his young age to be a game-changer. He could be the ultimate steal on this team due to his low cost and high ceiling.
Next up, the 2s get a week and a half to rest, recover, and train before traveling to face Sporting Kansas City II (formerly known as Swope Park Rangers) on October 13th at 8 pm. That match, like all USL matches, will be available on ESPN+.