• Thousands rally for Atlanta United FC during first home game ever

    By: Matt Johnson , Associated Press


    ATLANTA - It was a historic night as Atlanta’s new Major League Soccer team took to the field for its first-ever home game Sunday evening.

    A sellout crowd of more than 55,000 people cheered on Atlanta United FC as it took on the New York Red Bulls.

    PHOTOS: Atlanta United FC takes the field for inaugural game

    Yamil Asad scored the first goal in Atlanta United history late in the first half for a 1-0 lead.

    The Red Bulls finally pulled even in the second half. Shortly after Atlanta goalkeeper Alec Kann blocked a shot by New York's Felipe, the Red Bulls scored on a header by Daniel Royer in the 76th minute.

    Officials ruled Atlanta's Anton Walkes kicked the ball into the Atlanta United net for the Red Bulls' go-ahead goal. New York's Bradley Wright-Phillips appeared to score the goal on a pass from Kemar Lawrence in the 83rd minute, but the decisive contact on the ball was ruled to have come from Walkes.

    Atlanta United's Carlos Carmona was sent off after drawing a red card in the 88th minute.

    Positioned to the left of the goal, Asad waved his arm to show he was open and Tyrone Mears delivered a well-placed pass. Asad quickly hooked the shot past goalkeeper Luis Robles in the 25th minute for the first goal in United history.

    Asad fell to the grass near the end line. Several teammates piled on top of him in a celebration cheered by fans.

    Robles dove and blocked a shot by Josef Martinez in the 43rd minute, leaving Atlanta United with the 1-0 lead.

    The Red Bulls had the Eastern Conference's best record last season despite a 1-6 start but lost to Montreal in the playoffs. New York lost 2-0 at Vancouver in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal Thursday, leaving a long flight and little recovery time before the MLS opener.

    Despite the loss, fans were excited to cheer on their new hometown soccer team.

    “If it wasn’t a soccer city before it is now,” fan Howard Friedman told Channel 2’s Matt Johnson. “It’s the first game ever and it's making history.” 


    Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank told Johnson the support he's seen for his team already is overwhelming.

    “To see the enthusiasm of our fans, and their commitment, and their passion for the game and our team, it makes my heart really feel good,” Blank said.  

    United has sold more than 30,000 season tickets, a record for a MLS expansion team.

    Blank called the sellout "a tribute to Atlanta."

    Atlanta United and the Atlanta Falcons will share the new $1.5 billion Mercedes Benz Stadium, being built beside the Georgia Dome. United's first match at the new stadium is scheduled for July 30 against Orlando City.

    Until then, Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium is United's temporary home. A lack of width was the major challenge in the football facility, with only 2 yards between the pitch and the brick wall of the stands on one side.

    MLS Commissioner Don Garber attended the match and said Georgia Tech's stadium "is perfect for now." Garber said "We can't wait to get into Mercedes Benz Stadium."

    The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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