Atlanta United 2 battled to a 2-2 draw in its inaugural road match against Charlotte Independence on Saturday night. Featuring a young starting lineup with an average age of 20.8 years old, ATL UTD 2 went toe-to-toe with one of last year’s top USL teams. MLS Homegrown Player Lagos Kunga scored his first career goal with a remarkable individual effort in the 82nd minute to put Atlanta ahead 2-1, but Jorge Herrera equalized for Charlotte three minutes later in what was an entertaining, back-and-forth game.
“As I said to the team afterward – we’re ultimately disappointed not to get a win when I think we could have taken all three points,” ATL UTD 2 head coach Scott Donnelly said. “But, as I also told them, I’m proud of both the performance and the effort against a talented and experienced Charlotte team. We talked this week about being true to our playing identity, and I think we largely did that and were effectively doing that.”
George Bello, a 16-year-old defender, made his professional debut and was instrumental in forcing an own goal from Charlotte’s Jung-Soo Lee that put ATL UTD 2 in the lead in the 28′. Bello corralled a back pass and started the attack by giving to fellow Homegrown Chris Goslin near midfield. The 17-year-old midfielder immediately one-touched a pass to a streaking Jose Carranza up along the left sideline, where the 19-year-old winger then played Bello on toward goal. Bello finished his long run in the box, as his shot attempt inadvertently hit off Lee before going into the back of the net.
Charlotte equalized in the 37th minute from Herrera. The veteran midfielder took a pass from Caleb Calvert near the edge of the 18, turned toward net, and fired into the lower left corner of the goal, past a diving Paul Christensen. The match went into the half at 1-1.
Each team had a few good looks at goal early in the second half, but it looked destined to be a 1-1 draw until Kunga’s strike. Near the corner flag, Kunga maneuvered through a pair of Charlotte defenders and darted up the end line, racing past a third defender before firing through goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra’s legs (near post) for a 2-1 lead. But, unfortunately, Herrera struck again for Charlotte, equalizing three minutes later to even the match at two goals apiece.
ATL UTD 2 (1-0-1, 4 points) returns to action on Sunday, April 8 against Penn FC. Kickoff from Coolray Field is scheduled for 4 p.m.