Atlanta United learned a few lessons in loss

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Atlanta United learned a few lessons in loss

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Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann looks on as New York Red Bulls Bradley Wright-Phillips affects the winning goal for a 2-1 victory during the second half in their first game in franchise history on Sunday, March 5, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Take away the first 10 minutes and the last 15 minutes and Atlanta United has positives to build on in training this week following its 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Sunday at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium.

The team returned to training on Tuesday in Flowery Branch ahead of Sunday’s game against Minnesota United, which was beaten 5-1 by Portland in its MLS debut.

The areas of improvement for Atlanta United will likely include keeping its defensive shape and its finishing after the team failed to convert many chances to take a 2-0 lead and effectively end the game.

“We created chances, which is the most important, unfortunately we didn’t score, (because of) pressure, for lacking a final pass, for different reasons,” Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino said. “What I think we must improve is controlling the game. The game today was very intense, very up-and-down.”

After taking a 1-0 lead on a goal by Yamil Asad in the 25th minute off an excellent cross by Tyrone Mears, Atlanta United created several more chances to touch the net.

However, Josef Martinez’s point-blank shot just before halftime was stopped by an excellent save from New York goalkeeper Luis Robles.

Robles, solid throughout the game, stopped a 2-on-1 featuring Miguel Almiron and Martinez by leaping high to control a chipped shot by Almiron in the second half.

“Obviously, a second goal kind-of puts the game away a little bit because they played last Thursday so they might be, like, loose with their Xs and Os,” Atlanta United midfielder Julian Gressel said. “I mean it’s unfortunate that the game went that way and we couldn’t find that second goal.”

Despite missing those chances, Atlanta United kept a 1-0 lead until Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch went full-tilt with a high press in the game’s final stanza as he searched for the tying goal.

Bringing his fullbacks high up the field to get into the attack – something Atlanta United did very well with its press in the final 35 minutes of the first half and opening 25 minutes of the second half — seemed to affect Atlanta United’s midfielders and defenders.

New York scored its first goal on in the 76th minute by Daniel Royer following a corner kick that was the result of a shot by fullback Kemar Lawrence. The Red Bulls added a second just six minutes later on an own-goal by Anton Walkes that likely couldn’t have been avoided. That sequence was started by an clever back-heel pass from Mike Grella to Lawrence, who fired a cross into the mouth of the goal.

“Finishing off the game is one big lesson for us,” fullback Greg Garza said. “And to stay compact, and not concede those two goals so quickly.

“Red Bulls high-pressed us in the second half. We need to stay more compact, just to keep more organized defensively.”

Minnesota United likely won’t press in the same way that the New York Red Bulls did, which could give Atlanta United the chances to create more scoring opportunities in Sunday’s game and to apply lessons learned.

“It’s a 90-minute game,” Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst said. “We came in here at halftime really pleased with the way we played. We knew they’d bring a little more pressure in the second half. We just weren’t able to finish it out. We weren’t clinical enough up front when we had a big opportunity and, then, to give away a set piece was disheartening and the red card, as well. We need to learn from it and we will.”

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