Late power surge turns off Atlanta, 2:1
June 30, 2022
It looked like Metro was out of it. Flat and listless for long stretches, only saved by Atlanta's own finishing incompetence. And then, a late goal by the visitors, and the prospects of reverting to early-season horrors of Red Bull Arena becoming all too real. And then... a penalty kick. And then... a moment of magic from the most unlikely source (No! Not Patryk Klimala! No! Not Tom Barlow) for an astounding 2:1 win.
Metro got a reprieve from the COVID fairy earlier today, as both Aaron Long and Luquinhas tested negative. Long started, and Luquinhas would come off in the bench in the second half. Dylan Nealis' yellow card suspension meant a rare start for Cameron Harper.
Do we need to write about the first half? It was incredibly miserable. Here was Atlanta, with many important players out and rookies all over the field, and Metro couldn't even place a shot on goal. On the rare occasions they got the ball into the penalty area, Klimala made a meal of it. (Are you watching, Jochen Schneider? Don't be trapped by the sunk cost fallacy!)
Atlanta almost made Metro pay on the last play of the half, as Luiz Araujo ran through most of the Metro midfield, into the penalty area, and somehow shot wide. They did make Metro pay in the 75th, when a point-blank shot was fended off by Sean Nealis on the goalmouth, but the ball didn't drop too far and Josef Martinez knocked it in.
By then, Luquinhas was into the game (and Klimala was out), so Metro looked a lot livelier (although it's hard to look less lively), but still couldn't test Atlanta's rookie netminder. Then, in 81st, the Brazilian dribbled it into the box and close to the goal line, where he was taken out by an Atlanta defender. Lewis Morgan converted straight down the middle, and just like that, the game was tied.
And then... we finally got to that final "and then". And then, Serge Ngoma, all 16 years old of him, playing because 1) this team's bench is depleted and 2) this team's attacking depth is non-existent (Are you watching, Herr Schneider?), stripped Atlanta's Alex De John, walked in on the keeper, and coolly beat him to the short side. (Is his finishing better than that of Klimala and Barlow? We don't have too many data points, but... a resounding yes!)
And that was it. An incredible moment of magic and a amazing comeback when all seemed lost. That being said, this team's deficiencies at striker should be abundantly clear. (ARE YOU WATCHING, HERR SCHNEIDER???)
Lineup: Coronel, Tolkin, Long, Nealis, Edwards, Harper, Amaya, Casseres, Morgan, Fernandez, Klimala. Subs: Luquinhas, Barlow, Ngoma, Sserwadda.