Atlanta United blows lead late, draws NYCFC

Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) dribbles against NYCFC Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021,at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

Credit: Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United

Credit: Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United

Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) dribbles against NYCFC Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021,at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

Marcelino Moreno’s goal was offset in the final minutes by a free kick from NYCFC’s Gudmundur Thorarinsson, resulting in a 1-1 draw Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

With the draw, in front of an announced crowd of 42,511, the Five Stripes have 43 points and remain in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Their margin over the seventh- and eighth-place teams is two points with four games remaining. The top seven will qualify for the playoffs. Had Atlanta United held on, its margin over the seventh- and eighth-place teams would have have been four points with four games remaining.

“We lost two points,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said.

Credit: MLS

Atlanta United walks away with 1-1 draw against NYCFC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in which the equalizer came in the 90th minute.

Instead, Atlanta United is left to wonder how a game it dominated for the middle 70 minutes resulted in a deflating result. Thorarinsson’s goal in the 90th minute was reminiscent of late rallies by Nashville and Philadelphia earlier this season when it appeared that Atlanta United had three points secured. The shot was taken about 25 yards from goal and hit with pace over the wall and into the upper near corner and away from goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Atlanta United put more shots on goal, 7-4, and created three more chances than NYCFC, but failed to do the simple things to secure the important second goal, according to Pineda.

Though leading scorer Josef Martinez was available, Pineda chose to not start him. Instead, Luiz Araujo and Erick Torres were strikers, with a midfield composed of Moreno, Matheus Rossetto and Santiago Sosa, centerbacks were Miles Robinson, Alan Franco and Anton Walkes, wingbacks were Brooks Lennon and George Bello, and Guzan in goal. Ezequiel Barco was ineligible for selection because he was serving a one-game suspension after receiving a red card in the previous game.

Atlanta United took a 1-0 lead against the run of play in the 10th minute on a goal by Moreno with his weaker left foot into the right corner. The play started with Araujo stealing the ball (and possibly pushing off) from Jesus Medina near midfield and dribbling through the middle of NYCFC’s defense before passing it into space on his left for Moreno to one-time. It was Moreno’s ninth goal and Araujo’s third assist. It also was Atlanta United’s first shot on goal in the game.

Atlanta United negated the influence of NYCFC’s midfielder Maxi Moralez by marking him man-to-man and dominated the remainder of the half and the first few minutes of the second half, punctuated by a shot by Bello slamming off the crossbar in the 55th minute.

Pineda brought on Martinez for Torres in the 59th minute in an attempt to find a second goal and all but secure the three points.

Ten minutes later, Franco Ibarra came on for Sosa because of an injury sustained earlier in the game. Pineda said he thought that the team lost control of the game after Sosa was subbed off.

NYCFC, with only one win in its previous nine and a scoreless streak that moved past 500 minutes, kept applying pressure in the final minutes until it secured the game-changing free-kick opportunity after a foul by Amar Sejdic, who came in as a sub in the second half.

Guzan said the foul was unnecessary because the player who was fouled wasn’t going to shoot. He was moving across the top of the penalty box and was facing the sideline when he was fouled. Teammates didn’t need to dive in an attempt to get the ball.

Pineda said the team spoke at halftime about how the best way to protect a 1-0 lead is to score another goal. He said he needs to reflect again on the coaching. He said sometimes the players won’t do the simple things, whether it’s a pass or movement. They weren’t clinical enough, he said.

“Something happens, and we want to do a little extra,” Pineda said. “That cost us tonight.”

Pineda said the defense is solid, but the entrance into the final third, and pass, is lacking. He said that is what the team will work on during the next week.

“We look at some of the chances we had, and it’s the same old story,” Guzan said. “Goals define games, plain and simple.”

Atlanta United’s next two games are at home. It will host Miami on Oct. 27 and Toronto on Oct. 30.

“We talked about there being five finals,” Guzan said. “We’re still in a decent position in terms of the table, but certainly tonight leaves a disappointing taste in our mouth.”

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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

May 9 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 1,

May 15 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

May 23 Atlanta United 1, Seattle 1

May 29 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

June 20 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

June 23 NYCFC 1, Atlanta United 0

June 27 Atlanta United 0, New York Red Bulls 0

July 3 Chicago 3, Atlanta United 0

July 8 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

July 17 New England 1, Atlanta United 0

July 21 Atlanta United 1, Cincinnati 1

July 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Orlando 3, Atlanta United 2

Aug. 4 Atlanta United 2, Montreal 2

Aug. 7 Atlanta United 3, Columbus 2

Aug. 15 Atlanta United 1, LAFC 0

Aug. 18 Atlanta United 1, Toronto

Aug. 21 Atlanta United 2, D.C. United 1

Aug. 28 Nashville 2, Atlanta United 0

Sept. 10 Atlanta United 3, Orlando 0

Sept. 15 Atlanta United 4, Cincinnati 0

Sept. 18 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

Sept. 25 Philadelphia 1, Atlanta United 0

Sept. 29 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 0

Oct. 2 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

Oct. 16 Atlanta United 2, Toronto 0

Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE