The defense was out of position on both of Miami’s goals. Two more Miami goals were correctly called back because of offside rulings in the first half. Atlanta United’s offense, without a Designated Player for the first time in franchise history, started well and then ran out of ideas. It failed to even take a shot in the final 20 minutes.
Put it together and Atlanta United has lost three consecutive to this season’s expansion teams: Miami, Nashville and Miami again.
“In the moments that mattered we weren’t good enough,” Atlanta United captain Jeff Larentowicz said. “Those moments came quickly and early in the game.”
Atlanta United’s starting 11 was composed of striker Adam Jahn, midfielders Gallagher, Jake Mulraney, Matheus Rossetto, Eric Remedi and Larentowicz, fullbacks George Bello and Franco Escobar, centerbacks Anton Walkes and Miles Robinson, and goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Ezequiel Barco, the last healthy DP and who is tied for the team lead in goals (2) and leads in assists (3), wasn’t included in the game-day roster because of an issue with one of his legs. A team spokesman said the club hopes that Barco can return for Wednesday’s game against Dallas. Barco has appeared in 51 of the team’s 80 leagues games, including Saturday’s. It was the second time this season that Barco sustained an undisclosed leg injury the day before a match. Gallagher started in Barco’s place.
Glass said that playing without any DPs means that the team had to work hard and control the things it could in order to try to earn a result. Larentowicz didn’t think the lack of DPs was that big of a difference, saying the players in those spots (Gallagher, Mulraney and Jahn) did well.
Continuing a bad trend for Atlanta United, Miami grabbed an early goal. Unlike the past game against Nashville, in which it scored inside the first minute, Miami needed slightly more than a minute to take a 1-0 lead. This time, it was Juan Agudelo jumping on a loose ball in the penalty box. The play started with former Atlanta United player Brek Shea splitting two lines of Atlanta United players with a pass to Agudelo following an Atlanta United turnover. He put a pass into space to Lewis Morgan running down the left. His cross to Pizarro was deflected by Robinson. But no one ran with Agudelo.
Interim manager Stephen Glass said the team talked throughout the week about Miami’s speed on the counter attack. The players were instructed to tackle Miami in its half to stop counters.
“It’s something that should have been prevented,” he said.
Atlanta United answered three minutes later with Gallagher’s first goal. It was a left-footed shot into the upper left corner. Bello was credited with the assist, his first this season. Gallagher, drafted by the team in 2018 and at one point used as a wingback, said the goal was a mixed-bag of emotions because of the team’s loss.
Atlanta United had a chance to take a 2-1 lead a few seconds later when Gallagher found Jahn at the top of the penalty box. But Jahn’s shot was accidentally blocked by Rossetto.
But, as has been the case most of the season, Atlanta United’s cascade of mistakes continued and it was again punished. This time, because of a lack of communication between Escobar and Mulraney, Miami grabbed a 2-1 lead in the 11th minute on a header by Shea, who was left unmarked at the back post.
“No excuse on that one,” Larentowicz said.
Miami continued to carve open Atlanta United’s defense throughout the remainder of the first half. Miami had a goal called back because of offside. A diving Gallagher stopped another potential goal by Shea. Miami had another goal, this time by Victor Ulloa, called back for offside in the 44th minute.
Glass subbed on Erick Torres and Brooks Lennon for Mulraney and Jahn at the 60th minute.
Still, despite trailing for most of the game, Atlanta United put just three shots on goal through the game’s first 70 minutes despite pumping in cross after cross. The third shot was its best chance: a chip by Lennon to Torres whose header was pushed away by Luis Robles in the 70th minute.
Atlanta United upcoming games
Wednesday Dallas, 7 p.m., Fox Sports South
Sept. 27 at Chicago, 7:30 pm., Fox Sports Southeast
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