Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada #23 dribbles during the first half of the match against Chicago Fire FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday April 23, 2023. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Atlanta United)

Atlanta United defeated Chicago Fire FC 2-1 Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium before a crowd of 43,335. Atlanta scored the latest goal in club history, an own goal in the 99th minute, to come away with three points and remain unbeaten at home through five matches. Giorgos Giakoumakis netted his fifth goal in his fifth start for the club while Thiago Almada recorded his team-leading sixth assist of the year and now leads Major League Soccer with 10 goal contributions in just seven matches played.

After allowing an equalizing goal in the 90th minute, Atlanta risked dropping valuable points at home as the match entered stoppage time. The match-winner nearly arrived in the 96th minute when Caleb Wiley drew a free kick on the left wing. Brooks Lennon whipped in a cross and Juanjo Purata delivered a strong header on goal, but Chicago’s Chris Brady was able to push it over the bar for a corner. 

Three minutes later, Atlanta United got another opportunity from a corner kick. Lennon sent a ball to the near post where Machop Chol flicked it across the six-yard box. The ball ricocheted off Purata before bouncing off the back of Chicago’s Maren Haile-Selassie and into the net for an own-goal in the 99th minute.

Atlanta took the initial lead after a strong start in the 13th minute. Almada started the play when he dropped deep into the midfield and received the ball from Purata. The Argentine spotted the run of Lennon and played a long ball down the right channel. Lennon barely kept the pass in play when he squared a one-time ball from the end line to the center of the box which Chicago captain Rafael Czichos failed to intercept. Giakoumakis took one touch before blasting his shot by goalkeeper Chris Brady.

Atlanta kept Chicago’s attack at bay for the majority of the first half, but Quentin Westberg was called upon to make a crucial save in the 37th minute. Brian Gutiérrez intercepted a pass in Atlanta’s own half and immediately played Kei Kamara into the box. Kamara attempted a one-time shot, but Westberg rushed out to deny the veteran striker with a kick save.

Westberg, however, was forced to exit the match early with a leg injury and was replaced by Clement Diop at halftime. Chicago failed to generate consistent scoring opportunities in the second half, as the Fire was held without a shot on goal until the 90th minute when the visitors leveled the match.

An errant back pass by Franco Ibarra was gathered by Kacper Przybylko as he freely dribbled towards goal. Diop met him at the edge of the 18-yard box to deny his initial attempt, but the ball bounced into the path of Gutiérrez, who found Przybylko in space inside the box for a tap-in.

Atlanta United (5-1-3, 18 points) returns to action when it hosts Memphis 901 FC in the Third Round of the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday, April 26 at Fifth Third Bank Stadium (7:30 p.m., Bleacher Report YouTube, 92.9 The Game). The team returns to MLS Regular Season play Saturday, April 29 when it travels to Nashville SC (1:30 p.m., FOX, 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.

-Jon Jones

Photo: Courtesy of ATL UTD

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