Atlanta United cites another shutout as evidence of improvement

Atlanta United forward Adam Jahn (right) misses a shot as Orlando City's Alex De John (left) defends during the second half of a 0-0 draw Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

As evidence that Atlanta United is improving, interim manager Stephen Glass cites the team’s second consecutive shutout, 0-0, against Orlando City on Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

It’s the first time since August of last season that the team has held at least two opponents scoreless in back-to-back games. Last year, it was Portland and Orlando under previous manager Frank de Boer. This time it was D.C. United, 4-0, and Orlando. The team can add a third when it hosts the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. The four points earned from the past two games have kept Atlanta United (5-8-3) above the 10-team playoff line in the Eastern Conference with seven games remaining. In ninth place, it trails eighth-place Montreal by two points, is tied on points with Nashville, and leads 11th-place Chicago by two points.

“The improvement in that side of things is good,” Glass said. "We haven’t been shutout offensively too many times either. It’s just unfortunate tonight that we keep a clean sheet and get shutout on other end. I think the focus of the group has been fantastic. The determination not to lose games late and not make silly mistakes early has improved. The whole spirit of the group gives us something to build on.”

It also was the second consecutive game that the team didn’t give up a goal within the first 15 minutes. It did that in the loss at Chicago three games ago, which is the only blemish in the past four games.

“If you look at the last two games, I think the errors have been eradicated and that’s why they haven’t scored any goals," centerback Anton Walkes said. "It’s definitely been a main focus and all due credit to the team and the staff for making sure we can put these errors out of the way.”

The shutout was manufactured thanks to two shots hitting the post, one because of a deflection by a lunging Franco Escobar, and six saves by Brad Guzan, including one of a Junior Urso shot late that likely would have won the game for the Lions.

That effort and the fortunate bounce off Escobar’s left thigh is an example of things that weren’t consistently there during the team’s six-game winless streak during the middle of the season.

“First and foremost, you create your own luck,” Guzan said. “You can talk about balls hitting the post in the first half, the deflection in the second half. I look at it in a different way. I look at it that it’s a good block in the second half.

"We’re scrambling and we’re trying to put out a fire, and all of a sudden, I think it’s Miles gets enough of the ball to deflect it onto the crossbar. And then we’ve got bodies around to clear the second. You talk about creating your own luck and you need guys to put their bodies on the line and do everything you can. I choose to look at it that way.”

Atlanta United coming games

Saturday vs. New York Red Bulls (4-6-2), 6 p.m., FSSO

Oct. 14 at Miami (3-7-2), 8 p.m., FSSE

Oct. 18 at Toronto (6-2-4) in Hartford, Conn., 7:30 p.m., FSSE

Oct. 24 vs. D.C. United (2-5-5), 4 p.m., FSSE

Oct. 28 at Orlando (6-2-4), 7:30 p.m., FS1

Nov. 1 vs. Cincinnati (3-6-3), 7 p.m., FSSE

Nov. 8 at Columbus (8-1-3), 3:30 p.m., FSSE

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