Atlanta United dropped 0-9-1 this season when it concedes the first goal, which it did in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss at NYCFC at Yankee Stadium.
As goalkeeper Brad Guzan said a few times after the game: “Not good enough.”
In fact, if Atlanta United’s defense doesn’t post a shutout, chances are it doesn’t win because 14 of its 17 wins this season have come when the opponent doesn’t score.
“It’s a worrying thing, it’s a mentality thing,” Guzan said of the team, not just the defenders. “... We concede one. Heads drop. Mentality goes.”
This isn’t a one-game issue.
Guzan and de Boer brought up the loss at Chicago on July 3, when the Fire scored three goals in the first 13 minutes. They won 5-1. De Boer said the lack of sharpness against NYCFC reminded him of what was missing in Chicago.
“Before we woke up we were 3-nil down,” de Boer said. “This was not the case, but I had the same feelings. Too many players were not there in the first half.”
The same thing happened at Toronto on June 26 when Atlanta United conceded a goal in the first minute. Atlanta United lost 3-2. At LAFC, in a game as big as Wednesday’s, Atlanta United allowed three goals in 13 minutes in the first half. It would lose 4-3.
So, while the result against NYCFC was surprising, it may not have been a surprise.
“We weren’t good the moment we stepped on the pitch,” Guzan said. “They were better than us in every aspect of the game in the first half. We talked about it being a playoff game. We talked about it being a real game. We talked about knowing they were going to come out flying in the first minute. We weren’t good enough.”
Making it more aggravating to de Boer was NYCFC’s goals weren’t the result of multi-pass build-ups. Instead, they were typically result of one pass and the NYCFC player winning an individual matchup.
“We were reacting the first half and not anticipating,” de Boer said. “The first three goals, it’s like a long ball, more of a counterattack than a build-up. Then it’s about mentality and winning duels. In the first half they were winning those duels and creating chances.”
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