Atlanta United fails to put away Chicago, settles for draw

Atlanta United defender Andrew Gutman kicks the ball during the first half of the match against Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL on Saturday May 20, 2023. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United

Credit: Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United defender Andrew Gutman kicks the ball during the first half of the match against Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL on Saturday May 20, 2023. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

CHICAGO -- Giorgos Giakoumakis scored two goals but Atlanta United gave up a goal in the 89th minute to draw Chicago 3-3 on Saturday at Soldier Field.

Chicago’s final tying goal was scored by Georgios Koutsias and was helped by a lack of pressure put on the crosser, which also happened on Chicago’s two goals. Atlanta United gave up two goals despite playing with a man advantage earned in the first half. That advantage was nullified when Atlanta United was reduced to 10 men in the 68th minute because Luiz Araujo was given two yellow cards within a minute for separate fouls.

Giakoumakis came off the bench to start the second half and scored one goal with his head and another with his left foot to increase his season total to a team-leading eight. Andrew Gutman scored Atlanta United’s first and added an assist on Giakoumakis’ first. Giakoumakis had a chance to score the winner in stoppage time but scuffed the shot wide left.

“We couldn’t punish them,” Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “When we had chances, we had a few good chances, and we couldn’t finish that. And then obviously, we’re giving away soft goals that I’m not happy with.”

Playing its third game in eight days, Atlanta United didn’t always look sharp, especially on the three goals it allowed.

With the draw, Atlanta United improved to 6-4-4, including 1-3-3 on the road, and fell slightly off the pace with the leaders in the Eastern Conference. Additionally, Franco Ibarra (yellow card accumulation) and Araujo (one-game suspension) will miss Atlanta United’s next match at Orlando on May 27.

Atlanta United has scored a league-best 28 goals but has allowed 24 goals, second-most in the league. The team has given up seven goals in the 89th minute or later of games across all comps this season.

“Just mentality,” Gutman said. “You know, you can train it as all as long as you want for days on end, but it’s just mentality. Part of it is mentally not being tired in the 90th minute, pushing through that barrier that every single player on the field has. Until we do that, things aren’t going to change.”

Pineda made several changes to the lineup from the team that defeated Colorado 4-0 on Wednesday. Luis Abram was given his first league start at centerback, in place of the resting-but-still-in-the-gameday-roster Miles Robinson, and paired with JuanJo Purata. Brooks Lennon was also given a start off and replaced by Ronald Hernandez, who made his second consecutive start. Gutman, who couldn’t play against Colorado because he was serving a one-game red-card suspension, moved back into the lineup. Ibarra, Matheus Rossetto and Thiago Almada manned the midfield with Derrick Etienne and the outgoing Araujo on the wings, and Miguel Berry at striker. Quentin Westberg was in goal.

Atlanta United received an advantage in the 26th minute when Chicago’s Federico Navarro was given his second yellow card and subsequently ejected, providing the Five Stripes with a man advantage. The yellow card was given after Navarro fouled Berry just outside the 18-yard box as he was charging toward goal after Atlanta United forced a turnover in Chicago’s defensive third of the pitch. Almada hit the ensuing free kick low and hard toward the right corner. Chicago goalkeeper Chris Brady deflected the shot toward Gutman, who one-timed it to give Atlanta United a 1-0 advantage in the 29th minute. It was Gutman’s second goal in four matches.

Chicago tied the match at 1 on a corner kick by Xherdan Shaqiri. The Swiss hit an inswinging corner toward the near post. Westberg saved the surprising kick but the ball bounced off a diving Purata and back into the goal. Ibarra received a yellow card just before the corner. Hernandez was on the near post but was pulled away by a Chicago player who made a run toward Shaqiri. Hernandez’s spot on the post wasn’t filled.

After the yellow card, Shaqiri chipped a free kick from 40 yards toward the right post. Araujo played the ball out for the corner kick that ended up with Chicago’s goal. It may be considered karma because, in the team’s first meeting, Atlanta United won 2-1 on a Chicago own goal in the ninth and final minute of stoppage time.

“We have certain movements, certain things that we work on, and we tried to protect that,” Pineda said. “It certainly was a good strike by Shaqiri. But still to me, we have to save those.”

Pineda subbed on Giakoumakis for Berry to start the second half.

Chicago took a 2-1 lead when Atlanta United players backed off Shaqiri. He hit a cross-field pass to Kacper Przybylko, who chested it down to Maren Haile-Selassie, who one-timed a shot past Westberg in the 49th minute. The play started with a throw-in that Atlanta United didn’t defend quickly enough, resulting in Chicago having a man advantage.

“It’s so simple that throw in, Przybylko with the chest inside the box, no pressure at all,” Pineda said. “And then closing the gaps ... no blocking shots, something that we message very often. So frustrated with that one.”

Atlanta United tied the match at 2 on a goal by Giakoumakis in the 55th minute. The short-range header was assisted by Gutman, his third, and Hernandez, the first of his MLS career. Hernandez hit a chip to the back post where Gutman headed it back toward Giakoumakis.

Pineda subbed on Machop Chol and Robinson for Etienne and Purata in the 62nd minute.

Giakoumakis completed his brace with a goal in the 65th minute to give Atlanta United a 3-2 lead. The goal was originally taken away because Giakoumakis was flagged for offside. After a review, the offside was overturned and the goal stood.

“We have to demand more from ourselves and be more focused a little bit in some specific situations, so we can end up the games by winning them and not not dropping points when you deserve more,” Giakoumakis said.

Araujo received yellow cards in the 70th and 71st minutes, resulting in both teams having 10 players. Pineda said he didn’t understand why Araujo was given the second yellow.

“Is that a good call to stop a promising attack? I don’t know,” Pineda said.

But it shouldn’t have reached that point, Pineda said. The goals allowed were the result of poor defending.

“Again, it seems too easy,” he said. “So we were doing what we have to do. It’s just in those key moments inside the boxes where the games are defined, we need to do better. We put a lot of effort. What frustrates me the most is that the team, everyone was putting top effort, chasing, pressing closing down people. I feel like unless I rewatched the film so differently, I felt like everyone was running and doing what they have to do in terms of intensity. It’s more attention and how to close down those games, mentality, experience how we can get that.”

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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 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1

April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0

April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1

April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2

April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1

April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1

May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1

May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1

May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0

May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago Fire FC 3

May 27 at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m.

May 31 vs. New England Revolution, 7 p.m., FS1

June 7 or Sept. 13 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