Atlanta United defender Caleb Wiley #26 celebrates after scoring during the first half of the match against Charlotte FC at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Saturday March 11, 2023. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

Atlanta United defeated Charlotte FC 3-0 in its first road match of the season Saturday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium. Caleb Wiley scored twice and added an assist as Atlanta scored early and often with three first-half goals. Luiz Araújo scored his first goal of the season, while Thiago Almada added his second assist. Brad Guzan made three saves to keep his first clean sheet of the season and Atlanta stayed unbeaten through three matches to open the 2023 season – the first time it’s done that in club history.

Atlanta created its first goal with high pressure in Charlotte’s half. Near midfield, Amar Sejdic broke up a pass with a diving tackle that played the ball forward. Thiago Almada was the first to the loose ball and took a pair of touches before perfectly weighting a pass to Wiley near the edge of 18. A clean first touch set Wiley up on goal and he deftly beat Pablo Sisniega with a shot just under the bar for a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute.

Araújo doubled the lead just seven minutes later for the fastest two goals to start a game in club history. Miguel Berry played a ball down for Wiley, who found space in the center of Charlotte’s half and played Araújo just inside the box. The Brazilian winger then cut back and powerfully beat Sisniega with a low shot to the near post. 

The rest of the first half played out evenly, but Atlanta added a third goal just before the break. In the second minute of stoppage time, Almada made a breathtaking run through the heart of the midfield, blowing by Brandt Bronico and drawing several defenders before he played to his right for Araújo. This time, Araújo sent a low cross into the box that found Wiley at the far post. The 18-year-old calmly slotted passed a diving Sisniega to make it 3-0.

With a three-goal lead, Atlanta effectively killed off the match in the second half by keeping Charlotte away from goal. Charlotte’s 56 percent possession in the second half led to four attempted shots with only one going on target. Giorgos Giakoumakis came on for his second appearance while Santiago Sosa and Ajani Fortune each made their season debuts. Fortune made his MLS debut after coming on in second half stoppage time.

Atlanta United returns to action when it hosts Portland Timbers on March 18 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass, 92.9 The Game, La Mejor). All Atlanta United matches are available with an MLS Season Pass subscription, located on the Apple TV app.

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