In a match between two upstart teams in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Fire fell short in the early test.
The Fire gave up an early goal, suffered a red card soon after and were overwhelmed in a 4-0 loss in Atlanta's sold out Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday.
Atlanta midfielder Julian Gressel hit a low cross from the right in the fourth minute that bounced off Brandon Vincent and went into the goal.
The start to the match went from bad to disastrous when Johan Kappelhof was given a red card in the 11th minute. Kappelhof pulled down Josef Martinez and was ruled to be the last defender to deny a scoring opportunity. As a result, he was given the red.
Jonathan Campbell replaced Arturo Alvarez a few minutes later to give the Fire (1-1-1, 4 points) a full four-man back line the rest of the way.
Atlanta (2-1, 6 points) thoroughly dominated possession the rest of the match, but struggled to put shots on target. Despite nearly 83 percent possession in the first half, Atlanta had just one shot on target to the Fire's two.
However, the home team put the match away in the 60th minute. Highly paid designated player Miguel Almiron threaded a pass through multiple defenders to Martinez, who beat the offside trap, dribbled around goalkeeper Jorge Bava and scored into an open net.
Hector Villalba pounced on a loose ball in the box in the 67th minute to make it 3-0 and the rout was on.
Martinez scored his second goal with an impressive pair of touches. He knocked a through ball around Bava with his first touch and scored from a very tight angle to finish off the scoring.
Already down a goal, the Fire were practically out of the game when Kappelhof was sent off and Atlanta finally converted all the possession into goals in the second half. Atlanta finished with 83 percent possession for the match.
Fire forward Michael de Leeuw suffered a hamstring injury in training on Friday and was not with the team for Saturday's match. Luis Solignac took his spot in the starting lineup, which was the only change from last week's 2-0 win against Real Salt Lake.
Next weekend is an international break. The Fire next play at home on April 1 against Montreal.