Atlanta United drops home match against Minnesota United

Atlanta United defender Luis Abram dribbles during the second half of the match against Minnesota United FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United defender Luis Abram dribbles during the second half of the match against Minnesota United FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Atlanta United is heading in the wrong direction at light speed.

On Star Wars Day, complete with a Darth Vader-themed tifo, Atlanta United was beaten by Minnesota 2-1 on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of an announced attendance of 43,338.

The team is winless in its past five and Saturday’s defeat marked the first time that Atlanta United (3-4-3) lost consecutive home matches since the 2021 season when it was beaten by New England 1-0 on July 17 and 1-0 by Columbus on July 24. Atlanta United has taken just one point from its past three home matches as it has tumbled down the Eastern Conference table. It will host D.C. United on May 11.

The only consolation was a late goal by Saba Lobjanidze that made the outcome more interesting than most of the previous 81 minutes that were played.

All the talk for the past few weeks from manager Gonzalo Pineda and the players about the offense soon starting to come online was cut down with lightsaber precision by the Loons, who limited Atlanta United to one shot on goal in the first half and four in the match. The Five Stripes took 19 shots.

“I saw a team that was fully committed to win the game, for many parts we were the dominant team, had all the numbers on our side, except for the score,” Pineda said. “I think we have more possession, expected goals, chances created, high value chances, shots on goal. ... I think we were pretty dominant in that sense. But when you lose 2-1, it doesn’t matter.”

Pineda selected nine of the 11 players who started last week’s 0-0 draw at Chicago. The lineup was composed of striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, attacking midfielder Thiago Almada, wingers Lobjanidze and Edwin Mosquera, in for Tyler Wolff, midfielders Tristan Muyumba and Bartosz Slisz, fullbacks Caleb Wiley and Brooks Lennon, centerbacks Luis Abram and Noah Cobb, in for Efrain Morales, and goalkeeper Brad Guzan. In a twist to perhaps increase the wingers’ production, Lobjanidze started on the left, instead of the right, with Mosquera on the opposite side.

The sloppiness that plagued Atlanta United last week was still there through the first 37 minutes against Minnesota. It ended when Abram hit a long cross-field pass that Almada one-timed to the back post to Giakoumakis, who slammed a header down into the turf. Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St. Claire pushed the rising ball over the bar to keep the match 0-0. It was the team’s first shot on goal. It came in the 38th minute. It finished with just the one, and two chances created, in the half. Minnesota took seven shots, putting two on goal, and created three chances.

“I think that’s one thing that we’re struggling with right now is, I think we’re very good at breaking teams down and controlling the tempo of the game,” Lennon said. “But creating that final pass and chance on goal, I think we’re struggling a little bit and I hope that we can get that back.”

Things soon began to fall apart for Atlanta United in predictable ways.

Minnesota took a 1-0 lead in the 54th minute when, from a corner, Kervin Arriaga outjumped Muyumba to a win a header and put the shot into the lower right corner. It was just the 10th goal allowed by Atlanta United. It was the fourth set-piece goal allowed by Atlanta United this season.

Minnesota increased its lead to 2-0 when an underhit pass from Wiley to Muyumba in Atlanta United’s defensive third of the field was poked away by Carlos Harvey to Tani Oluwaseyi, whose shot from 20 yards rolled into the lower right corner in the 60th minute.

Pineda described those lapses as the team being “half-asleep.”

“We are not allowing opponents to just build from the back or create chances with good combination play to score goals on us,” he said. “It’s kind of self inflicted. It’s not like they are pressing great. It’s more like we are missing the passes, or set pieces, or lack of concentration in central action. I haven’t seen in a while where the opponent makes a good play or good counterattack or good combination play to really hurt us.”

Daniel Rios and Tyler Wolff came on for Muyumba and Mosquera in the 66th minute.

Atlanta United cut Minnesota’s lead in half on a goal by Lobjanidze in the 82nd minute. Giakoumakis was credited with the assist.

The goal finally sparked Atlanta United.

Atlanta United took four consecutive corner kicks in the ensuing three minutes but the Loons would clear each one away.

A header by Giakoumakis bounced off the crossbar in the 91st minute.

Atlanta United’s last chance came on a free kick in the 98th minute, one more than the seven minutes of added time. The ball was 25 yards from the goal on the left, a perfect place for Almada to attempt a shot. He did. It was saved.

“Sometimes you play good and you win, sometimes you play bad and you win, so sports sometimes is like this,” Muyumba said. “We have to stay positive, stay together, we work very hard and and be ready for the next match.”

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 Atlanta United 2, Orlando 0

March 23 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 0

March 31 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 0

April 6 Atlanta United 1, NYCFC 1

April 14 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

April 20 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

April 27 Atlanta United 1, Chicago 1

May 4 Minnesota 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 vs. Charlotte Independence in U.S. Open Cup, 7:30 p.m.

May 11 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

May 15 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

May 18 at Nashville, 1:30 p.m.

May 25 vs. LAFC, 7:30 p.m.

May 29 at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

June 2 vs Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FOX

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.