KENNESAW, Ga. – Atlanta United 2 moved back into the playoff picture in the USL Championship’s Central Division as Macky Diop converted from then penalty spot and Rocco Rios Novo made a key penalty denial in a 2-1 victory against FC Tulsa on Wednesday night at Fifth Third Bank Stadium. The result saw Tulsa suffer a third consecutive defeat, and its second on the road to Atlanta this season.
Looking to break a seven-game winless streak, Atlanta created chances in the early going including a header by Diop in the seventh minute and a curled free kick by Aiden McFadden 12 minutes later that both forced saves from Tulsa goalkeeper Austin Wormell. The hosts were handed a big opportunity to take the lead in the 25th minute, however, as Diop was fouled by Tulsa’s Modou Jadama inside the penalty area. Diop stepped up and fired beyond the diving Wormell into the left corner of the net to put Atlanta ahead.
Tulsa’s first real look on goal arrived five minutes later as Marlon flicked a header on target off a cross by Dario Suarez from the left that was easily saved by Rios Novo. Nine minutes before halftime Diop almost struck again for the hosts with a powerful shot from the right side of the penalty area that rang the inside of the near post and rebounded across the goal and away to safety.
The visitors were awarded a penalty kick of their own in the 42nd minute, though, as Rodrigo da Costa was played into the left side of the penalty area by El Salvador international Joaquin Rivas and brought down by Atlanta’s Bradley Kamdem Fewo. Da Costa stepped up to shoot but his effort to the right side of the net was read by Rios Novo, who parried the ball wide for a corner kick to keep the hosts in front.
Atlanta then added a second goal four minutes into the second half after an errant pass in the Tulsa half was collected by McFadden, who drove forward and found Robbie Mertz with a pass to the left channel. Mertz moved into the penalty area before sending a pass on to Ajani Fortune, who shot into the bottom-left corner of the net. Six minutes later, though, Tulsa pulled a goal back as Marlon dove down the right flank before delivering a near-post cross that Da Costa turned home into the left corner of the net.
Connor Stanley narrowly missed restoring Atlanta’s two-goal advantage when he shot just wide of the right post from the right side of the penalty area just past the hour-mark, while Diop threatened again with 19 minutes to go as he attempted to heel-flick a finish off a low cross from the right that Wormell got across to save. Atlanta also had a chance with in the 81st minute as Mertz played in Philip Goodrum for a chance that was blocked away by Tulsa captain Bradley Bourgeois.
But while Tulsa tried to apply pressure in the closing staged to find an equalizer, Atlanta’s back line produced a strong rearguard action to keep the visitors from finding a clear opportunity to strike, allowing the hosts to see out a potential turning point for their season.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Macky Diop, Atlanta United 2 – Diop scored from the penalty spot and was consistently looking to cause danger, finishing the night with six shots while winning 5 of 8 duels and 3 of 4 aerial duels, and completing 14 of 21 passes.
ATL – Macky Diop (Penalty Kick) 25’
ATL – Ajani Fortune (Robbie Mertz) 49’
TUL – Rodrigo da Costa (Marlon) 55’