Atlanta United will work on finishing games

Performing better in the second half will be a key to Atlanta United’s chances of earning three points at fellow MLS expansion side on Sunday.

Despite controlling most of the game, “The Five Stripes,” as the team is being called by some fans on social media, gave up two goals and had a player sent off because of a red card in the final 14 minutes to fall 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls in Week 1 at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“For 60 minutes it was great, the way we want play,” starting right fullback Tyrone Mears said. “We control games. When we lose the ball, we press high and try to win the ball back.

“After 60 minutes, for whatever reason, we stopped doing that. Maybe Red Bulls stepped up their game. We became complacent. We were going too much for the second goal. Probably a few things. But there’s a lot to learn. For 60 minutes we were very good.”

Michael Parkhurst, the team captain and a starter at centerhalf, said something similar.

“We had a good performance on Sunday,” he said. “I’m pleased with a lot of the things we did. We know with time we will learn now to play with a lead. We didn’t do a good job of keeping the ball in the second half.”

According to information provided by opta, the only two 15-minute segmentsin the game in which New York Red Bulls controlled the possession more than Atlanta United came in the first 30 minutes of the second half.

Some of the players think that the ability to maintain that focus throughout the game will come as the team gains more experience playing together.

The squad, consisting of just a few pairs of players who have ever competed on the same team, had just four preseason games to try to develop the chemistry and communication that the players on other MLS teams have had years to fine-tune.

“It’s something we’ve talked about in the locker room,” said midfielder Yamil Asad, who scored the team’s first goal. “The guys have their own individual experiences, but we are coming together. It’s something we can improve upon in the next few weeks.”

Though the defense gave up the two goals, Mears and Parkhurst thought the communication and chemistry on defense was solid.

The first goal came off a set piece, which Parkhurst called disappointing, and the second came on an own-goal that likely could only have been avoided had the fullback not had space to shoot/cross into the goal’s mouth.

The Red Bulls totaled nine shots, five on target, and were limited to 45-percent possession. Even in the decisive final 15 minutes, Atlanta United still had more of the possession (53.8-46.2).

“In reality the question could be what happened in the last 15 minutes,” Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino said. “A good part of the first part we were much closer to converting a second goal. And in a series of errors that we made, they turned the score around but I think we had started to control the game again up until they scored the equalizer.”


POSSESSION

A look at the possession in individual 15-minute segments in Atlanta United’s 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Sunday:

TIME ATL NYR

0-15 57.7 42.3

16-30 66.7 33.3

31-45+ 59.6 40.4

46-60 45.1 54.9

61-75 46.3 53.7

76-90+ 53.8 46.2

Information provided by Opta.