It was perfect weather for a night of footy on the pitch. The two ‘united’ expansions from last season met up once again but this time in the Carolina Challenge Cup. It was another chance to test out the most formidable squad (on paper) against a Minnesota club that has made a number of key changes in the offseason, including two Atlanta United players Tyrone Mears and Harrison Heath.

The first half was pretty quiet outside of two chances from club favorite Miguel “Miggy” Almirón. In the 41′, Almirón found himself mere yards way from Minnesota United goalkeeper Matt Lampson and went for a volley that was blocked wide. In the 43′ Miggy had another chance in front of goal and Lampson dove to block the attempt yet again.

In the second half in the 48′ a big chance came for Minnesota’s Abu Danladi after blazing past Gónzalez-Pirez but blasted the ball wide of the netting.

Trouble came in the 51′ when Chris McCann committed a foul in the box which resulted in a penalty kick. Minnesota’s Kevin Molino blazed the penalty try past Brad Guzan to give The Loons the 1-0 lead.

In the 56′ Greg Garza sent in a lofty cross to Josef Martinez who was able to head it back to Miggy for the volley but it was blasted over the crossbar.

In the 61′ Danladi was in a 2-v-1 against Leandro Gónzalez-Pirez. Danladi had outpaced the Argentine but LGP used his technical ability and timed his tackle perfectly to block the ball and clear it from his half. Not long after, a perfectly headed ball by Martinez made it past the keeper but was cleared off the line by a defender. There were lots of chances for Atlanta but they had no goals to show for it. Welcome newly signed Ezequiel Barco.

Barco leveled the game in the 85, tallying his first goal in an Atlanta kit with a curling effort to beat Lampson. Barco received a pass on the left side, dribbled into space, and cut inside past a defender before striking a right-footed shot inside the far-post.

“Not only have we had more training sessions but we’re adding more rhythm,” Atlanta United Head Coach Tata Martino said. “And that’s the important part, in each game we’re growing, independent of the level of the opponents. As the games come, we’re incorporating the new players and they’re getting more used to playing with each other.”

Atlanta United returns to action for its final match of the Carolina Challenge Cup on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. against Charleston Battery.

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