A first-half golazo from Ezequiel Barco helped Atlanta United take all three points in their home opener in front of over 21,300 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, topping Chicago Fire FC 3-1 on Saturday night.

It was a lively, free-flowing start to the match as Atlanta found themselves on the front foot early on, but Chicago came close to finding the opening goal as Przemyslaw Frankowski's shot struck the woodwork in the ninth minute. Then just before the quarter-hour mark, Brooks Lennon sprung a long pass to Barco, but the resulting shot by Atlanta's Emerson Hyndman missed the right side of the net.

But Barco made good on his own chance in the 23rd minute. After his free kick deflected straight into the Chicago wall, he followed it up with a laser from distance that deflected off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net to open the scoring.

Atlanta had a glorious chance to make it 2-0, but Marcelino Moreno's attempt came off the post. Brad Guzan would come up with a big save seconds later on the other end as Atlanta was nearly burned in transition.

But the Fire leveled the match less than a minute past the halftime break. A gorgeous touch on the right side from Boris Sekulic found Luka Stojanovic, who had a simple finish past Guzan to make it 1-1.

After several half-chances, though, Atlanta would take the lead back in the 66th minute as a Marcelino Moreno cross inside the box deflected past Bobby Shuttleworth and off Johan Kappelhof for the own goal. Jake Mulraney nearly made it 3-1 not long after but sent a shot wide with acres of space off a delivery from Barco.

Atlanta had yet another chance to make it a two-goal lead with 15 minutes to play, but Josef Martinez — playing in front of a home crowd for the first time since the 2019 Eastern Conference Final against Toronto FC — saw his effort deflect over the crossbar. Then, with eight minutes to go, Robert Beric's clever flick toward the net inside the box came just inches away but instead found the post.

But Hyndman would make amends on his earlier miss in the 85th minute, helped by some brilliant skill from Mulraney, to ice the match away and give Gabriel Heinze his first league win.

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Goals

  • 23' - ATL - Ezequiel Barco | WATCH
  • 46' - CHI - Luka Stojanovic | WATCH
  • 66' - ATL - Johan Kappelhof (OG) | WATCH
  • 85' - ATL - Emerson Hyndman | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: Atlanta United had been a bit starved for goals early on in the 2021 campaign, being held off the scoresheet outside of a goal in either leg of the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 tie against Alajuelense. But after settling for a scoreless draw against Orlando City last Saturday, they put three past the Fire to make it a 4-0-0 mark against them at home and send their fans home happy.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: There's little doubt what the moment of the match in this match would be: Barco's golazo in the 23rd off a deflected free kick to send the Mercedes-Benz Stadium crowd into a frenzy.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: It was a bit of a slow start for Barco, but his golazo in the first half was part of an active night as he grew into the match and nearly combined on a couple more.

Next Up

  • ATL: Tuesday, April 26 vs. Philadelphia Union, Concacaf Champions League Quarterfinal Leg 1 | 8 pm ET (FS1, TUDN)
  • CHI: Saturday, May 1 at New York Red Bulls | 1 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)

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