Atlanta United ended a three-game homestand with a 1-1 draw against Orlando that started slowly but finished with excitement Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The stand could be considered disappointing because the team took just four of a possible nine points and remains in 11th place, where it started when the homestand began with a 3-0 loss to Austin. But, as manager Gonzalo Pineda said after, “the team is back” because he said it played like a team in the past two games in which it earned the four points.

A good sign for the team is it rallied after Orlando opened the scoring on a mistake by Atlanta United’s defense. Juan Jose Purata answered with his first goal for the club in the second half.

“We all can see things differently,” Pineda said. “I think that loss against Austin was a good wake-up call that had to happen. And, actually, I’m kind of happy that it happened. Because it was all a lot of internal things within the team. And I feel like the last two games we’ve been playing as a team. Because I feel like that’s going to be the decisive point of the season. We’re going to just come back very strong.”

Still, Atlanta United is two points below the seven-team playoff line. It will play its next games on the road at Los Angeles Galaxy and at Chicago. It is 1-6-2 on the road this season, which is among the reasons the team needed to take as many points as possible during the homestand.

With the draw in front of an announced attendance of 42,526, Atlanta United (6-8-6) failed to win back-to-back MLS games for the sixth time this season. It hasn’t had such a modest streak since September 2021.

Atlanta United considers itself unlucky that it didn’t earn three more points against Orlando. It outshot the Lions, 18-4, and put more shots on goal, 4-1. It also created more chances, 13-2.

“I think that we feel good about a performance, but we want to win,” wingback Aiden McFadden said. “So there are definitely chances that we could have finished that game off and we wanted to, but it was a good team performance, and it’s something to build on for sure.”

Pineda selected 10 of the same 11 who started Wednesday’s 2-1 win against Real Salt Lake, as well as the same formation that included three centerbacks. The exception was Luiz Araujo in for Thiago Almada. The rest of the 11 was composed of striker Ronaldo Cisneros, midfielders Marcelino Moreno, Amar Sejdic and Matheus Rossetto, wingbacks Caleb Wiley and McFadden, centerbacks Purata, Alan Franco and George Campbell, and goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo.

Orlando kept the pressure on Atlanta United in the first 10 minutes and got its reward, and a 1-0 lead, in the 10th minute on a free kick from 19 yards by Mauricio Pereyra. The free kick was the result of a foul by Campbell just near the center of the pitch. Pereyra put his free kick over the wall and into the left corner. Atlanta United players complained to referee Victor Rivas that they were setting up the wall when the kick was taken.

Pineda said Rivas had asked Rios Novo if he were ready. Rios Novo was standing on the post. Rivas took the gesture to mean that Rios Novo was ready.

“Which is very weird when you’re on the post,” Pineda said. “I don’t think he’s ready in that position. I’m sure the referee has a very good reason to do that.”

In a tactical change from Real Salt Lake, in which the team attempted 13 crosses during the game, Atlanta United pumped in 11 by the end of the first half. It put just one of its three shots on goal compared with Orlando’s two and one. Pineda said the team had trouble breaking down Orlando in the first half and it was defending its lead.

Orlando made two changes in the 55th minute, bringing on Tesho Akindele for Ercan Kara and Benji Michel for former Atlanta United player Jake Mulraney.

Pineda countered with Josef Martinez and Almada on in the 60th minute for Sejdic and McFadden. With that switch, Atlanta United kept the back five with Araujo moving to right wingback.

The offense started to come alive because it began to move the ball side to side, finding Araujo, Almada and Martinez in pockets that disrupted Orlando’s defense.

Atlanta United scored the tying goal on a header by Purata in the 71st minute. It came from a free kick struck by Almada about 40 yards from goal. It appeared that Orlando’s players assumed that goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was going to come out so they stopped marking Purata, who put in his first goal for the Five Stripes from close range. Almada was credited with his sixth assist.

Pineda put on former Orlando player Dom Dwyer in the 74th minute for Cisneros in an attempt to find the winning goal.

Atlanta United should have had that goal in the 81st minute when Araujo dribbled in on goal, but Gallese stopped his shot. Martinez was first to the deflection but couldn’t make clean contact.

Dwyer put in a curling effort in the 82nd minute that forced a diving save to his right by Gallese. Dwyer said he thought it was going in and couldn’t believe Gallese was able to get a hand on it.

Atlanta United’s last best chance came in stoppage time when Martinez reached a through ball but his shot hit the post.

Atlanta United was fortunate in the final minutes. A shot by Orlando’s Alexandre Pato bounced off the post and then a cross bounced off Rios Novo, hit Campbell and was headed into the goal, but Rios Novo was able to recover and catch it.

“I felt that we were very dominant,” Pineda said. “Not the first half, it was a tough first half. But we were always on the front foot, always moving the ball, always willing to create chances, always the team that really wanted to attack. And because of that, we made Orlando to be tired, give us spaces, and then at the end, we were very dominant. So I’m very proud of that with my team. So the way we finished this week, I think is very positive for what we want to achieve in the future.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

Aug. 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at Columbus, 5:30 p.m., FS1

Aug. 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

Aug. 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas


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