Down a man for the final 30 minutes and with injuries piling up, Atlanta United gave up two goals in the final minutes to lose 3-2 to Minnesota United on Tuesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta United was on the verge of sealing a rally on second-half goals from Hector Villalba and Julian Gressel.
Minnesota United tied the score 2-2 on a shot from Christian Ramirez that bounced off several players in the 90th minute. The play started with a corner kick.
Minnesota United took a 3-2 lead in stoppage time on a goal from Kevin Molino, who headed in a cross.
The loss leaves Atlanta United (15-9-8) in third place in the MLS East with two games remaining. It trails NYCFC, which also has two games remaining, by three points. It was Atlanta United’s second loss in it past 16 games. It fell to 11-3-2 at home, including 6-1-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where it has outscored opponents 24-6.
Minnesota grabbed its first lead on a beautiful goal by Abu Danladi, who moved right to left and turned Michael Parkhurst, before he hammered a left-footed shot into the opposite corner in the 48th minute. Danladi was the top pick in the Super Draft earlier this year.
Playing a man down, Atlanta United tied the score in the 68th minute on a shot from the top of the penalty box by Villalba. The shot went through the legs of two different Minnesota United players. It was Villalba’s 13th goal this season.
Gressel then scored his fifth goal of the season on a left-footed shot from a tight angle. Sprinting down the right and behind Minnesota United’s defense, Gressel latched onto a pass from Yamil Asad, turned one defender and then connected with his left foot.
The Five Stripes lost Chris McCann to a possible left leg injury during the game, just a few hours after it announced that fullback Greg Garza, the man McCann was replacing, was out 4-6 weeks with a hamstring injury.
Atlanta United then lost goalkeeper Kyle Reynish, in for Brad Guzan, to a red card in the 60th minute after he was late tackling Danladi just outside the penalty box. Alex Tambakis, the first announced signing in team history, came on for Reynish. It was Tambakis’ MLS debut.
If the Five Stripes finish third or lower, they will play a knockout playoff game on either Oct. 25 or Oct. 26. The winners will advance to Eastern Conference semifinals, which start either Oct. 30 or Oct. 31 and conclude Nov. 5. The conference finals are Nov. 21 and Nov. 28 or Nov. 29. The MLS Cup is Dec. 9.
Atlanta United played Tuesday without five of its regular starters, who were either missing because of injuries, rest or call-ups to national teams for coming World Cup qualifying games.
The missing were goalkeeper Guzan, who is with the U.S. men’s national team, right fullback Anton Walkes, who was given the game off, Garza and attacking midfielder Miguel Almiron, who have hamstring injuries, and striker Josef Martinez, who was called up by the Venezuelan national team.
With Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin with the U.S. Under-17 national team, and goalkeeper Alec Kann (quad) and Brandon Vazquez (hamstring) also injured, Martino had 20 players from which to choose 18.
Martino went with a mostly standard 11 with one exception: Kenwyne Jones started at striker. It was his first start since May 7 at NYCFC. He missed a significant portion of the summer because of an injury sustained while with the Trinidad and Tobago national team. He came off the bench to play in Atlanta United’s previous three games, with Martino saying after one of the games that Jones did everything asked of him in that role.
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