Adam Armour canceled out Josef Martinez's penalty kick six minutes after the Venezuelan opened the score on the hour mark, and had the expansion club just seconds away from their first-ever point in MLS action. But Mulraney played the hero for the hosts in the 96th minute, burying a cross from Marcelino Moreno that set off a massive celebration – as well as a huge sigh of relief from Pineda.
“[In] the second half, the adjustments [that Charlotte made] worked,” the Mexican coach said after the final whistle. “It was almost man-for-man in certain parts of the field, and it took us a while to really break that down.”
Despite the fierce opposition they encountered, Atlanta got the job done when it mattered most.
“The reaction of my team is what I loved,” Pineda raved. “The players impacting the game from the bench [was] a massive positive [as well as] the reaction from my players with their heart, their passion, their intensity, winning duels, winning tackles, sending messages here and there."
“I think it’s a good reward for the team, that goal from Jake".
Sunday’s showdown also saw MLS-record signing Thiago Almada make his league debut after entering as a substitute in the 56th minute. While the Argentine attacker had an overall quiet afternoon, Pineda said the 20-year-old eventually grew into the match as the action unfolded.
“He came into a very difficult game," Pineda said of the $16 million signing from Velez Sarsfield. "I think it was hard to debut in that moment. The intensity was very high at the moment he [came] in, but I felt once he started to combine and to get certain touches, I really liked what I saw. …Overall, I would say it was a massive positive.”
Mulraney stepped into the match at a much later stage – the 83rd minute – and was out to prove that he’s deserving of a spot in the starting XI.
“I want to be playing, I want to be starting, I want to be giving the manager headaches. I want to be putting my name out there so I can start,” Mulraney said.
“But I have to earn that. I have to do things like I did today and I have to do even more. I can’t just go other there and be quiet for a few games.”