In scoring eight goals in its past two games, Atlanta United is looking and playing like a team that has built confidence and chemistry from continuity, something it couldn’t do last year because of the myriad injuries throughout the season.
“Number one is always a team effort, is the players putting everything together in every training session and working together on the field,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “So today, I’m very proud of everyone’s hard work. Everything starts with good defending, being there for each other, fighting, competing, chasing, pressing, all those little details that I feel that were very important and yes, obviously continuity, having a full roster helps for that development.”
It marked the first time since 2021 that Atlanta United scored at least three goals in consecutive games. It was the first time since Sept. 2021 against Cincinnati that Atlanta United had three DPs score in the same game.
Atlanta United improved to 3-0-1. It will play at Columbus next Saturday.
Pineda made one change to the starting lineup that rolled over Charlotte last week. The adjustment was giving Giakoumakis his first start in place of Miguel Berry. The rest of the lineup was comprised of Wiley, Luiz Araujo, Almada, Amar Sejdic, Franco Ibarra, Andrew Gutman, Brooks Lennon, Miles Robinson, who made his 100th appearance in a regular-season game, JuanJo Purata and Brad Guzan.
Atlanta United appeared to fall behind in the second minute on a 24-yard shot by Eryk Williamson. But referee Ted Unkel, after going to the video monitor, ruled that Jaroslaw Niezgoda, who was in an offside position 12 yards from goal, was in Guzan’s sight line and interfered with his ability to make the save. The goal was overturned, leaving the game tied.
Atlanta United grabbed a 1-0 in the 25th minute on a goal by Wiley, his third in the past two games. The sequence started with Robinson hammering a header from his Atlanta United’s 18-yard box up the field. Two Timbers defenders tried to chase down the ball, only for it to bounce to Almada as the three players ran about 30 yards down the field trying to take possession. Almada got there first and put a pass through the two Timbers players into space for Wiley to run onto. He calmly finished with his left foot into the lower right corner. It was Almada’s third assist this season and the 300th in Atlanta United history in regular-season games.
Atlanta United turned up its pressure and Giakoumakis was at the center. First, he played in a teammate for a close-range shot from Almada that went just wide. Next, his 12-yard shot was saved by Timbers goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic.
Robinson hit a long diagonal to Almada down the left, who played in Araujo in the 31st minute with only Ivacic to beat. Araujo’s shot went wide, keeping the score 1-0.
Almada increased Atlanta United’s lead to 2-0 on a 35-yard strike from a free kick that glanced off the right post. The shot was taken from the left side of the field and had a few feet of bend on it. Ivacic didn’t move toward the shot until it was almost on top of his goal. It’s the third long-range strike by Almada this season. The foul that led to the free kick was won by Giakoumakis. It appeared that Ivacic thought that Araujo, who is left-footed, would end up taking the kick. Both he and Almada stood over it. The way Ivacic set the wall more to the center of the field seemed to take away Almada’s ability to curve it that far. But the distance of the shot took care of that.
“No,” Almada said when asked if he’s ever hit a better free kick.
Almada said he wasn’t sure it was going to go in but he had confidence because he practiced taking long free kicks against teammate Clement Diop on Friday and tried to get Ivacic to move toward one side of the goal by looking at that area.
Atlanta United increased its lead to 3-0 on a headed goal by Giakoumakis. Wiley hit a perfectly weighted pass to the back post for Giakoumakis to head to the near post in the 59th minute. It was Wiley’s second assist this season. Araujo was also credited with an assist, his first. He played a pass across the field to Wiley, who played it back across to Giakoumakis.
Pineda said that assistant coach Rob Valentino has been working with Wiley on his crossing, and also working with Wiley and Lennon on connecting with Giakoumakis.
“I hope after those two goals that he scored against Charlotte would give a little bit more confidence and belief in himself,” Pineda said. “I think today he showed that yes, he’s doing that and I think you still haven’t seen the full picture of Caleb Wiley I still think he has many things to prove out there.”
Araujo scored his goal, his second this season, in the 75th minute. He held off a Portland defender as he controlled the ball before he scored. Almada was credited with an assist, his fourth this season.
Atlanta United lost its shutout on a goal by Tega Ikoba in the 83rd minute.
Derrick Etienne, a second-half sub, was credited with an assist on Almada’s second goal. It was Etienne’s second this season.
The only negative on the night was the goal scored by Portland.
“One thing I can share with you is before the game we were talking about striving for perfection,” Pineda said. “And if we’re striving for perfection, we need to do better. In certain situations, we can be more clinical in the final third. We can maintain the clean sheet. Even though we did a great job at limiting good chances for Portland, we should have gotten the clean sheet tonight, which makes me a little bit upset. But at the same time, it will keep us grounded because we know there are things to improve.”
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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule
Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1
March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1
March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0
March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1
March 25 at Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.
April 1 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.
April 8 at New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.
April 15 at Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m.
April 23 vs. Chicago Fire FC, 4:30 p.m., FS1
April 29 at Nashville SC, 1:30 p.m., Fox
May 6 at Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.
May 13 vs. Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m.
May 17 vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m.
May 20 at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m.
May 27 at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m.
May 31 vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m., FS1
June 3 at Los Angeles FC, 10:30 p.m.
June 10 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.
June 21 vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.
June 24 at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.
July 2 vs. Philadelphia Union, 4 p.m., Fox
July 8 at CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
July 12 at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m.
July 15 vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m., FS1
Aug. 20 at Seattle Sounders, 10:30 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 30 vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA