ATLANTA -- They hadn't taken too many shots on goal, yet.
The New York Red Bulls had controlled the ball and were consistently attacking, yet they had nothing to show for it.
Atlanta United FC, playing in the opening minutes of their inaugural game, pushed the ball down field. They were moving the ball around, trying to get an open look at the goal, when Tyrone Mears fielded a pass near the back right.
He stopped the ball and reset.
Yamil Asad, a 22-year-old Argentinean midfielder, said after the game he recognized the play right away. He knew the cross was coming. Sure enough, Mears sent a deep cross nearing the left post Asad's way. With a mere tap of the ball with his right foot, Asad instantly became an Atlanta legend.
"It was a joy to score," Asad said through a translator. "I'm excited to be a part of the history of the club."
The first goal in Atlanta United FC history came in the 25th minute, and the fans went nuts.
Beer sloshed around in the stands. The flags waved high and Atlanta's boys in the Five Stripe mobbed Asad on the field. There were hugs on the sideline, including some for head coach Tata Martino. Somewhere, a happy team owner Arthur Blank probably had a few dance moves, although he said before the game that he wasn't planning any.
The Red Bulls responded in the second half with two goals of their own, Daniel Royer in the 76th minute and an own goal by Atlanta United in the 82nd. It spoiled some of the fans' fun, but Atlanta still witnessed the historic goal it seeked. It wasn't a storybook ending, but this is just the first chapter in what's to become the next Atlanta sports epic.
"I'm unhappy that we lost, and the team has a lot to work on," Asad said.
The team felt plenty of love from the stands, though.
More than 55,000 crammed into Bobby Dodd Stadium and created an atmosphere Julian Gressel said was unlike any other soccer atmosphere in the country.
"It's a tremendous thing for the city that they have a team here that tries to win it, give it their all and for the fans. It really helps us," he said. "They push us through thick and thin. We got off to a slow start now and hope to start winning games."
They will get another chance to do that next Sunday - this time on the road against the other MLS expansion team beginning this season, Minnesota United FC.
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