An early defensive breakdown and capitalizing on only one of its 22 shots were enough to contribute to Atlanta United’s 2-1 loss to Dallas on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Dallas’ goals came in the sixth minute from Jesus Ferreira and the 84th from Bryan Acosta, while Atlanta United’s Ezequiel Barco twice hit the bar with shots. Josef Martinez scored Atlanta United’s lone goal with a penalty kick in stoppage time in the second half.
The loss keeps Atlanta United (1-3-2) winless in its first three MLS games at home, where it is 0-1-2. It went 11-2-4 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium last season. The Five Stripes will host Colorado on April 27.
Atlanta United dominated possession with a season-high 71.2 percent of the ball, putting eight shots on goal, but couldn’t find the net as its scoring issues this season continued. The team has scored only three goals at home.
Despite the result and inability to finish, manager Frank de Boer was very pleased his team’s intensity and told the players so after the game.
“You create chances, you dominated,” he said. “You played well. I cannot make the goals. You have to make the goals. If you play like this, I think from the 30 games you will win 28.
“I think we made two steps forward today. Not with the result, of course. I was proud of the intensity. How we played.”
De Boer on Saturday selected the same group of players that led his team to a 2-0 win last week against New England. Instead of coming off the bench, Barco started as the attacking midfielder playing underneath striker Martinez.
Dallas grabbed a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute when Michael Barrios eluded a tackle by Leandro Gonzalez Pirez at midfield to start a counterattack. Barrios streaked down the right side before putting in a cross to Ferreira, who outran Michael Parkhurst, to tuck his shot into the right corner.
After minutes of pressure, Barco cut in on his right foot and hit the post with a shot from 18 yards in the 26th minute.
Atlanta United continued to pressure, and a cross from Barco was deflected to Martinez yards from goal. His shot fizzed across the mouth of the goal.
Though Atlanta United failed to tie the score in the opening 45 minutes, it arguably was its best played half in league play this season. The team took 10 shots, put three on goal, and created five chances. The one mistake on defense undid all the good work, though.
Barco kept winning fouls and hit the post again with a free kick from 22 yards in the 61st minute as Atlanta United hunted the equalizer.
Shea got behind Dallas’ defense in the 64th minute to run onto a pass from Hector Villalba, but goalkeeper Jose Luis Gonzalez came out in time to smother his cross.
Atlanta United kept attacking. A cross by Brek Shea sailed across an empty goal near the 65th minute. Martinez was taken down from behind in the penalty box in the 69th minute, but no penalty was given by referee Armando Villarreal.
Atlanta United again came close to tying the game when Martinez spun to his right and hit a hard shot in the 79th minute. But Gonzalez dove to his left for the save.
“He made some incredible saves today,” Julian Gressel said. “We had our chances. We just couldn’t capitalize.”
Dallas secured the win a goal from Acosta in the 84th minute on another counterattack in which the only Atlanta United player that was back was Miles Robinson. Gonzalez Pirez tried to catch up to Acosta but couldn’t get there in time to stop his volley.
It was a high-quality goal with Barrios creating space to get off his cross. Barrios got behind the defense because pressure wasn’t applied quickly enough on Edwin Cerrillo, whose pass of some 50 yards down the left was perfectly weighted.
“I can definitely say we were the most dangerous we’ve been all year,” Jeff Larentowicz said. “I can say that we played well as a team tonight, too. But just like at times in the past, we can’t be as naïve as some of the teams we played against. To give away that goal in the second half. The word isn’t unlucky. Its something else.”
Martinez tried to make the game interesting in the 87th minute when he got behind Dallas’ defense, but his shot went just wide.
He received another opportunity when Shea was fouled in the penalty box in the seventh minute of injury. Martinez converted the penalty kick for his second league goal this season.
“Sometimes football is unfair,” de Boer said. “Today, maybe it was was for us. That’s why the game is so beautiful and sometimes not always the best teams win. If we play with this intensity the points will come, for sure.”
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