STOPPAGE TIME PENALTY SENDS ATLANTA UNITED FC U-16/17 TO SECOND STRAIGHT ACADEMY FINAL


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (July 8, 2018) - Under an unforgiving sun at Kansas City's Swope Soccer Village, a late burst of speed from Atlanta United FC U-16/17 substitute Jordan Matthews drew a penalty kick in the third minute of stoppage time. It proved to be the difference. He stepped up to the spot and coolly slotted the ball to the right corner, sending the Five Stripes to their second-consecutive Academy Championship Final with a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Impact.

After a back-and-forth battle through 90 minutes, it appeared the Academy Championships' opening match was headed to extra time. But head coach Tony Annon and Atlanta had other plans. Matthews came on in the 83rd minute, and he would make the most of his brief appearance.

Two minutes into stoppage time, Montreal appeared to be creeping into Atlanta territory in search of a dramatic finish. Countering off a deep run from the Impact, Atlanta quickly made a move up the right sideline. Matthews received a pass near the half-line that turned his defender and the forward skipped by a second Impact player to free himself in the box. With a final defender on the approach, Matthews cut inside and was taken down. After the referee blew the whistle and pointed to the spot, Atlanta could taste victory. With ice in his veins, Matthews stepped up and left no doubt with his PK conversion.

"Overall as a team, we worked hard. We didn't play pretty, but we got the win," Atlanta forward Wasswa Robbins said. "That's what matters. From the beginning of the Playoffs, we believed that we could go all the way. We could hopefully get the results that we want and bring it home. We're just all really excited. Now, just on to recovery and looking forward to one more game."

Atlanta found its victory in come-from-behind fashion, as a slew of nifty combinations from Montreal's Moulay Abdallah Kanzi Belghiti and Woobens Pacius led to a PK opportunity in the 15th minute. Calin Calaidjoglu successfully converted to give Montreal an early lead.

Making every effort to head to the break with an equalizer, Atlanta found the back of the net in first half stoppage time. On a free kick from 13 yards outside the top of the box, Takuma Suzuki slipped a pass to Robbins down the right line of the penalty box. Robbins sent a cross to the near post, only to be denied by the crossbar. The ricochet skied directly to the head of an Atlanta player at the top of the box and his shot forced a diving save from Montreal goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois. The rejection deflected off of a Montreal player, leaving it teed-up for Atlanta's Kendall Edwards to hammer home.

Eight minutes into the second half, Atlanta continued its comeback. On a promising attack down the right flank, Robbins lobbed a dangerous ball into the box. As he raced back to defend his mark, the ball unluckily connected with the head of Kanzi Belghiti and bounced into the net.

Montreal drew even just 11 minutes later. This time, the heroic effort came from Pacius, after the midfielder was in slid in by teammate Georges-Edouard Tissot in the 63rd. The teams traded chances for the rest of the half, but neither could find the game-winner. In the back-and-forth affair, Matthews' late substitution buoyed Atlanta to its third and final goal.

The Five Stripes took home the national title at this age group last year, and now advance to face Seattle Sounders FC in Tuesday's Academy Championship.