For Atlanta United, Saturday’s win ‘ a confidence booster’

Atlanta United's Marcelino Moreno. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta United's Marcelino Moreno. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

All the buzz out of Atlanta United this weekend was a record-setting crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the announced crowd exceeding 40,000 fans overshadowing a 1-0 win over CF Montreal on Saturday night.

And while the attendance, a post-pandemic world record of 40,116, is certainly a huge feather in the cap of an Atlanta United club with true global aspirations, Marcelino Moreno’s stoppage time goal is perhaps even more impactful for a side that has been inconsistent over the past season. And against Montreal, a team that has exceeded expectations to start this year, Atlanta United overcame a tough and organized opponent bent on a road result.

But Moreno’s second goal of the season, a header off a Jake Mulraney cross, sent a message that Atlanta United is finding success in their rebuilding off a dismal 2020.

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“The emotions are at the end of the game. It’s beautiful to see so many people in the stadium,” Atlanta United head coach Gabriel Heinze told reporters after the match.

“It’s been a long time without seeing this. And football is for people. I’m very happy because for the players, they gave everything to get this win.”

With the win, Atlanta United is now tied for first in the Eastern Conference at 2-1-2 (8 points) with New York City FC. It is an impressive start given the heavy squad rotation needed to balance the MLS campaign as well as the CONCACAF Champions League.

Atlanta United – and dominated – much of the match against Montreal, who sit in fourth place in the conference on points per game after the road loss. The resilience of Atlanta shown in taking the three points is crucial for a team still learning and taking to Heinze’s system.

Heinze was hired this offseason to stabilize Atlanta United following a tumultuous 2021. He’s had to rebuild the roster while also rebuilding his locker room’s collective psyche.

“At the end of the day it’s a huge result for us. I’ve talked about since preseason about the amount of work we’ve been putting in to understand the new system, understand the new tactics,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said.

“From game to game understanding how we want to adjust things. Not to take anything away from Montreal, they are a very good team. Watching previous games that they played coming into this game, they are a good side. To ultimately come away with three points it’s a good result and also leaves a good feeling within the group to push forward.”

Guzan did note that the time of Moreno’s goal, in the game’s last gasps, can be helpful in propelling this team forward.

“Obviously, you are buzzing. I’ll say this afterwards that it’s almost a better feeling to score like that, than if we had scored in the 25thminute and won 1-0. It’s a morale booster,” Guzan said.

“It’s a confidence booster. It wasn’t our best game, but sometimes you have to just get over the hump and find a result and tonight we did that.”

Follow Kristian Dyer of ‘MLS Multiplex‘ on Twitter @KristianRDyer