A first for Brad Guzan earns Atlanta United its first road point

Atlanta United forward Jamal Thiaré reacts after a goal during the second half of the match against New York City FC at Citi Field in Queens, NY on Saturday April 6, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United forward Jamal Thiaré reacts after a goal during the second half of the match against New York City FC at Citi Field in Queens, NY on Saturday April 6, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Atlanta United earned its first positive result on the road this season but it took something unpredictable to make it happen.

An assist from goalkeeper Brad Guzan, his first in his 269th appearance in MLS, on a goal by Jamal Thiare, his third the past two games, ensured Atlanta United earned a 1-1 draw against NYCFC on Saturday at Citi Field.

It was the first goal scored by Atlanta United in three road games as well as its first point this season away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta United will play four of its next five MLS matches at home, starting on April 14 against Philadelphia. The Five Stripes (3-2-1) are sitting on 99 wins in regular-season matches.

“You’ve got to be able to adapt to situations right and it’s probably some points lost, but at the same time you’ve got to be honest with yourself and on another day, they’re probably thinking they dropped some points, too,” Guzan said. “And so if you can’t win a game, you don’t lose it. Certainly a performance that we can improve on. But to get a point and get back to Atlanta for some big games coming up in a couple weeks.”

Both teams were sloppy with the ball, not helped by playing on yet another ragged pitch put down in a baseball stadium so that NYCFC can have a home. The teams combined for 42 shots, with Atlanta United putting six on target compared to NYCFC’s two.

“A game difficult to play because of the field conditions,” Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “No excuses. It was for both teams but that right side in the first half was a black hole for us. We couldn’t build on that side. And it was impossible to play in that in that area.”

Playing without leading scorer Giorgos Giakoumakis (knee), winger Xande Silva (adductor) and centerback Stian Gregersen (knee), Pineda selected Thiare at striker in his second start this season, Thiago Almada at attacking midfielder, Tyler Wolff and Saba Lobjanidze as the wingers, Tristan Muyumba and Bartosz Slisz as the central midfielders, Noah Cobb and Derrick Williams as the centerback pairing for the third consecutive match, Caleb Wiley and Brooks Lennon as the fullbacks, and Guzan in goal.

The first half was back and forth as neither team could keep possession of the ball on a patchy and narrow pitch.

NYCFC took a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick by Santiago Rodriguez in the 43rd minute. Rodriguez won the penalty because of an infraction by Muyumba, who made slight contact with his left shoulder in the 18-yard box. Rodriguez was gifted the ball near the top of the 18-yard box because of an errant pass by Wolff.

With the the teams switching sides to start the second half, Atlanta United had better turf to play on and started to find success down its right.

It culminated with Thiare’s header from a cross by Mosquera in the 65th minute. Atlanta United went down the pitch in two passes, one from Guzan to Edwin Mosquera on the right wing and then from Mosquera to Thiare at the back post. He left the match before play resumed, replaced by Derrick Etienne. Thiare appeared to be limping. Pineda said he suffered a kick to his thigh in the first half. It was Mosquera’s first assist this season. Etienne, normally a winger, slotted in at striker in a move forced because third-string striker Daniel Rios didn’t make the gameday roster because he resumed training on Friday.

“Leading up to the goal, and then even after the goal, we were continuously getting down our right side, from Brooks with Edwin and these balls slipped down the channel, they were causing a problem,” Guzan said.

Guzan denied Rodriguez in the 77th minute by getting his right hand on a swerving shot, deflecting the ball off the crossbar. Guzan then recovered and jumped onto the ball just before Rodriguez could get there for another attempt. Guzan said he saw the shot late and was afraid he didn’t deflect it enough to prevent it from going in.

“Got a little lucky on that one,” he said.

Guzan made another key save in the 93rd minute to preserve the draw.

“I was good to see that adaptation and then for me, the main thing is the fight and the grinding of the team, fighting for every ball, winning second balls, winning some duels,” Pineda said. “And then, earning one point, I think, is valuable.”

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 Atlanta United 2, Orlando 0

March 23 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 0

March 31 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 0

April 6 at NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

April 14 vs. Philadelphia, 2:30 p.m., FOX

April 20 vs. Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

April 27 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.

May 4 vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.

May 11 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

May 15 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

May 18 at Nashville, 1:30 p.m.

May 25 vs. LAFC, 7:30 p.m.

May 29 at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

June 2 vs Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FOX

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.