Atlanta United midfielder Jake Mulraney #23 celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2022 Opening Day match against Charlotte FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, United States on Sunday March 13, 2022. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

Atlanta United defeated Charlotte FC 2-1 Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of 43,055 fans. Jake Mulraney scored the game-winning goal in the 96th minute, Josef Martínez scored his first goal of the season and Designated Player Thiago Almada made his club debut.

Locked at one-all deep into stoppage time, Marcelino Moreno, standing in Atlanta’s defensive half of the field, played a long diagonal ball to Mulraney on the right side. The winger squared towards goal and began dribbling at Charlotte captain Christian Fuchs. Mulraney cut to his left foot and ripped a shot towards goal which deflected off Christian Makoun’s back and into the net. It was Mulraney’s first game-winning goal for Atlanta United.

Atlanta United defender George Campbell #32 and midfielder Amar Sejdic #13 go for the ball during the 2022 Opening Day match against Charlotte FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday, March 13, 2022. (Photo by AJ Reynolds/Atlanta United)

Atlanta took the initial lead early in the second half when Brooks Lennon earned a penalty in the 57th minute. Lennon was brought down in the box by Makoun after Atlanta’s Alan Franco played a long ball down the right side that Lennon latched onto and dashed into the penalty area. Martínez stepped to the spot and coolly scored his first goal of the year, slotting it into the lower-left corner past a diving Kristijan Kahlina.

Martínez nearly scored the match-winner in the 81st minute. Matheus Rossetto played Lennon down the right side where he squared a ball back to the center of the box for Martínez. The Venezuelan one-timed a shot at the top right post, but Kahlina made a quick reaction save to push it over the crossbar.

Atlanta assembled a dominant first half and got off to a quick start as Martínez put a shot on frame in the fourth minute. Lennon sent in a cross from the right side to the center of the box where the forward headed it down, but Kahlina was able to knock it down.

“Like I said I’m trying to get goals, help with assists, and help the team any way I can. Whether that’s on the bench or starting, I just wanna help the team.”

Jake Mulraney on what the season means after his goal and debut

Just three minutes later, George Campbell played a long ball into the box for Gutman down the left side where he rifled a shot on frame, but Kahlina again was able to keep the home team off the board. Martínez nearly scored again in the 32nd minute when he gathered an errant back pass from Fuchs, dribbled into the box, and aimed a low shot at the far-left post, but a kick-save from Kahlina denied the attempt.

Guzan was called on to make three saves in the final five minutes, but both sides went into the break scoreless. Guzan finished the match with six saves.

Atlanta (2-1-0, 6 points) returns to action Saturday, March 19 when it hosts CF Montreal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (4:00 p.m., Bally Sports South, Sports Radio 92-9 The Game, La Mejor).

-Jon Jones

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