March 5 (Reuters) - The New York Red Bulls scored two late goals to claim a 2-1 victory and spoil the Major League Soccer (MLS) debut of Atlanta United on Sunday.
A sellout crowd of 55,000 turned up at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech University for the the MLS expansion team’s first home game.
In a city where American football -- both professional (NFL) and college -- has long been the dominant spectator sport, the future of professional soccer also looks bright.
Atlanta will play their first eight home games at Georgia Tech before moving mid-season into a new stadium they will share with the Atlanta Falcons NFL team.
United have already sold more than 30,000 season tickets and the team, coached by former Argentine national team and Barcelona boss Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, made a bright start.
It took Atlanta less than 25 minutes to score their first goal and send the crowd into a frenzy, Argentine midfielder Yamil Asad ghosting in unmarked at the far post to prod home a cross.
The Red Bulls finally came alive in the second half and Austrian winger Daniel Royer equalised with a thumping header from a corner in the 76th minute.
The winner came six minutes later with Bradley Wright-Phillips sliding in and appearing to force the ball over the line.
Although it was credited as an own goal to Atlanta defender Anton Walkes, former Manchester City striker said he would be claiming it as his first strike of the season.
”I touched it a little bit,“ the Englishman said with a mischievous smile. ”Strikers, we always say yes.
“It wasn’t a great first half but we knew they were going to be excited,” Wright-Phillips added.
“Just look around, credit to their fans, they came out and supported them.”
The other expansion franchise, Minnesota United, also made a losing debut when they were hammered 5-1 by Portland Timbers on Friday night.
In another of Sunday’s matches, Orlando City christened their new stadium with a 1-0 win over New York City FC, Canadian striker Cyle Larin heading home the winner from point-blank range after 14 minutes.
The Orlando stadium was also sold out, with a crowd of 25,527 announced, and only an apparent hamstring injury to the home side’s Brazilian captain Kaka clouded the occasion. (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Nick Mulvenney)