“At the end, we will see if this point was the difference or not, I just feel like we could have won this one,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “I feel like it’s still a little disappointing that we couldn’t win this one because I felt we played good. But credit to Cincinnati. They were very sharp in certain moments in transition especially and set pieces and well. This is MLS and this is how it looks.”
Atlanta United’s offense looked sharp in the first half. In addition to the goal, two shots hit posts and two soft handballs against Cincinnati players weren’t called. But after a very slow second half, in wins, the only stat that matters, the team has just two in its past 10 games, but it has only lost once in its past six. It improved to 1-7-4 on the road. The team took 19 shots, putting six on goal to Cincinnati’s 16 and eight.
Pineda switched from two centerbacks used in the past two games, to three centerbacks to try to deal with Cincinnati’s powerful offense. The three centerbacks were Gutman, Alan Franco and JuanJo Purata, with Caleb Wiley and Ronald Hernandez as the wingbacks. Santiago Sosa operated as a single defensive midfielder with Marcelino Moreno and Alamada as dual attacking midfielders, a wrinkle that Pineda used in the second half of last week’s win at Seattle. Ronaldo Cisneros served as the lone striker with Luiz Araujo on the right wing. Rocco Rios Novo started in goal.
Atlanta United had the better of the play in the opening minutes. A shot by Araujo was deflected early, followed by Almada hitting the bar in the eighth minute.
The hard work paid off with a goal by Almada in the 17th minute to give his team a 1-0 lead. Araujo was credited with the assist, his fourth. The goal, struck into the upper right corner from 18 yards, was Almada’s fourth.
“I feel like he just identifies the space in those areas,” Pineda said of Almada, who led the team with four chances created. “And he just attacks it and he was very good.”
Moreno hit the crossbar in the 24th minute after Gutman and Wiley combined to create a turnover in Cincinnati’s defensive third.
Rios Novo dove to his left to parry a shot from Brenner in the 26th minute and preserve his team’s lead.
Former Atlanta United player Brandon Vazquez scored his 15th goal to tie the game at 1 in the 29th minute. The sequence started with a poor pass from Purata to Gutman about 22 yards from goal. Cincinnati jumped on the turnover. Vazquez finished from close range.
Cincinnati took a 2-1 lead in the 41st minute on a goal from Brenner, who hit a header that Purata tried to stop from going into the goal. Instead, the ball bounced off his chest and into the net. The sequence started with a Cincinnati corner kick. It’s the ninth goal allowed on a set piece (non-penalty kicks) by Atlanta United this season, according to whoscored.com.
“It’s concerning because it cost us two more points,” Pineda said of the defensive lapses. “But we will continue. I think just not losing and the grind that the team showed at the end trying to win even in the last play. I felt that today we did a very good job in many, many aspects. But we couldn’t reward ourselves with three points.”
Araujo was denied from close range by Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano in the 44th minute.
Pineda put on Josef Martinez, searching for his 100 goal in MLS, for Cisneros and Brooks Lennon for his first appearance since June 19 in place of Ronald Hernandez in an attempt to find the tying goal in the 59th minute.
In another attempt to spark the offense, Pineda subbed on Edwin Mosquera for Moreno and Dom Dwyer for Wiley in the 69th minute. Dwyer became a second striker beside Martinez. Pineda also switched the formation to a back four.
After looking so fluid in the first half while putting three of its 13 shots on goal, Atlanta United didn’t put a shot on goal in the second half until the 69th minute.
Gutman came through in the 83rd minute with a delicate chip from a few yards away. Martinez and Almada were credited with assists. It was Martinez’s fourth assist and Almada’s team-leading seventh.
“I think a couple years ago, I probably would have rushed that shot but just knowing that in the game, you have more time than you actually think, so body control and mind control kind of just slow down for a second,” Gutman said. “See the goalie and then make your decision.”
Rios Novo made a diving save to his left in the 88th minute to keep the game even.
Almada just missed reaching a header on a cross by Mosquera in the game’s final seconds that could have won the match.
“I think we had chances tonight to win the game,” Lennon said. “And, you know, like Gonzalo said to us after the game, when you go on the road a point is the minimal that you can get, and we did that tonight so it was good. Coming back from behind kind of late just shows that this team is willing to fight and get points. And when you go on the road, you can’t lose, especially this late on in the season.”
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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule
Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1
March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0
March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1
March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3
April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0
April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0
April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0
April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1
April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1
May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1
May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2
May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2
May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1
June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0
June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1
June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1
July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2
July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0
July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1
July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1
July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0
July 30 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0
August 6 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 1
August 13 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2
August 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
August 21 at Columbus, 5:30 p.m., FS1
August 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV
August 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1
Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX
Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Sept 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas
Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas
Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE