ATL United triumphant over Messi-less Miami

Defender Brooks Lenon celebrates with midfielder Tristan Muyumba after an Atlanta United goal against Inter Miami. // Photo courtesy of Atlanta United

Atlanta United’s match against Inter Miami was one of the most highly anticipated of the season. The reason for the hype was due to Lionel Messi, arguably the best soccer player of all time. In anticipation of Messi coming to Atlanta, Mercedes Benz Stadium was sold out with 71,635 people in attendance: the 10th largest crowd in Major League Soccer (MLS) regular season history. Sadly for the many fans looking forward to seeing Messi, he was unable to make the match due to fatigue from playing so many matches in a short amount of time. 

Despite lacking one of soccer’s most exciting players, the packed house at Mercedes-Benz Stadium witnessed one of the most entertaining matches of the season. Atlanta United would win 5-2 thanks to goals from Tristan Muyumba, Brooks Lennon, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Tyler Wolff. One of Atlanta’s goals was an Inter Miami own goal in the 41st minute. The goals were assisted by Lennon, Caleb Wiley and Saba Lobjanidze twice respectively.

Despite the big win, the 17’s did not start the game off well, falling behind in the 25th minute thanks to a thunderous volley from Inter Miami’s other Leo, Leonardo Campana. Atlanta United responded with three goals in less than 10 minutes prior to the end of the half. The first was scored thanks to Muyumba’s glancing header that went in off the post in the 36th minute, the second was an own goal from Inter Miami thanks to a dangerous low cross from Xande Silva in the 41st minute and the last of the spree was a Lennon volley off a Wiley cross that was driven into the Miami goal in the 44th minute. Thanks to the Five Stripes’ goal frenzy, they went into halftime with a 3-1 lead.

Once again, Atlanta United started the half slowly, with Miami creating heavy offensive pressure. Miami would quickly capitalize, making the score 3-2. After this goal, the game became chippy and physical. Eventually, Miami would receive a yellow card which lowered the tension. Once the game settled down, Atlanta would dominate the remainder of the match and make the score 4-2 off a Giakoumakis goal in the 76th minute. Just 13 minutes later, Wolff would finish off the game, making the score a resounding 5-2 in favor of Atlanta United.

Atlanta’s utter domination of Miami was a real team effort, but the standouts were Muyumba, Saba, Lennon and Giakoumakis. Muyumba was arguably the most important player on the pitch not just because of his opening goal, but also his ability to keep Atlanta United’s offensive attack together with his consistently dangerous passes into the opposition’s box.

Saba was subbed on with 16 minutes left in the game but left with two brilliant assists. Saba’s first touch of the ball was a low cross that Giakoumakis powered into the back of the net, while his second assist was very similar, except Wolff finished off the chance. Despite playing a limited amount of time, Saba made an impact by coming away with the second most chances created by an Atlanta United player in the game.

Lennon has debatably been one of Atlanta United’s more underrated players throughout the 2023 season. His performance was his best of an already good season, as he notched a goal and assist to help power Atlanta through. As a result of his great game, Lennon was named to the MLS Team of the Matchday on the week.

Giakoumakis may have only scored one goal against Inter Miami, but his presence throughout the season has been immense. His goal was his 14th in the MLS, tying him as the top scorer in the league despite playing over 600 minutes, which is almost seven matches and less than the two other players that he is currently tied with. With just five matches left in the season, Giakoumakis is in an excellent position to run away with the top scorer title.

However, Atlanta United is not complete without  midfielder Thiago Almada. Almada was awarded a secondary assist for Giakoumakis’ goal. This was Almada’s 15th assist of the season, which is an Atlanta United single season record and now makes Almada the sole MLS assist leader. Almada is proving to be one of the very best players in the league this season and looks to continue his high standard of play to have a chance at winning the Landon Donovan MLS MVP Award.

The win over Inter Miami was a statement game for Atlanta United despite Miami’s star player  being absent. In front of the largest crowd of the season, Atlanta United showed some of their best soccer, and they now have some much needed momentum to finish out the regular season. They face off against DC United next.