It created nine chances against Montreal but managed to take just two shots on goal from inside the host’s penalty box. One shot was Moreno’s goal, another example of how the team needs moments of individual brilliance to score. Atlanta United dominated possession and finished with 12 shots, putting five on goal, but those resulted in an expected goals of 0.7 to Montreal’s 1.87, illustrating the difference in quality of chances produced by the teams. Montreal took 14 shots, putting five on goal.
“I think there’s some sort of frustration, obviously, because of the result,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “But also because I don’t think the performance of the team was one that deserved to lose the game. I think we certainly dominated the game, we certainly were in control of the game. But we couldn’t find a good result due to the lack of final product in both boxes. I think that we need to do better in the very limited times that the possession is inside our box, we need to do much better. And the many times we are around the box, we need to create a lot more.”
Pineda selected an attacking lineup with Ronaldo Cisneros at striker, supported by Thiago Almada, Moreno and Luiz Araujo across the midfield. Matheus Rossetto and Franco Ibarra were the central midfielders with Brooks Lennon and Andrew Gutman the wingbacks, Miles Robinson and Alan Franco the centerbacks, and Bobby Shuttleworth in goal. It was just the third time in nine games that Atlanta United was able to field two Designated Players, Araujo and Almada, in a starting lineups. It was also the first starts for Araujo and Rossetto since they recovered from injuries, and for Ibarra.
It didn’t take long for Montreal to take a 1-0 lead and it came from a set piece, which Atlanta United has had trouble defending going back to the preseason. Miller got in front of Ibarra to head in a free kick from close range in the fourth minute. The free kick was the result of a foul by Franco on Romell Quioto on the left wing. Djordje Mihailovic took the in-swinging kick and was credited with the assist.
“Set pieces are clearly something we need to work on,” Shuttleworth said. “Find solutions on the field because we train it so we’ve got to do better in those areas.”
Atlanta United’s first chance came in the 11th minute when Cisneros was pulled down by Camacho about 20 yards from goal near the middle of the pitch. Camacho received a yellow card. Almada took the free kick and his low effort, arrowing toward the lower right corner, forced a diving save by Sebastian Breza.
Almada continued to find holes in Montreal’s defense, twice finding Araujo in dangerous spots. But as has been the case for the team most of this season, it couldn’t take advantage.
Almada eschewed a pass and instead sent a right-footed shot just wide in the 19th minute from 22 yards.
“When they had a lot of numbers inside the box it was hard for our players to create chances,” Pineda said.
Moreno forced another diving Breza save in the 32nd minute with a free kick from 30 yards. The shot looked to be going into the upper left corner before Breza slid to his right and pushed it away with both hands.
The story in the first half was the quality of the shots on goal. Montreal’s three were from six yards or less. Atlanta’s two came on free kicks from 20 and 30 yards against Montreal’s packed-in defense, which it could do because of its early goal. Atlanta United enjoyed 73% of the possession.
“We were not sharp with the final pass,” Pineda said when describing his message to the team at halftime. “Try to continue with the same style and same belief.”
Moreno, often wasteful in the first half, had a moment of brilliance that tied the game 1-1 in the 51st minute. Almada crossed the ball from right to left to Moreno, who put his foot on top of the ball, moved it forward, and hit a shot that bounced off the near post before the ball rolled across the goal line and into the opposite corner. It was his second goal this season.
Gutman kept the game tied with a goal-line clearance in the 54th minute after Montreal players twice were the first to reach loose balls in the penalty box on a set piece. Earlier in the game, Montreal was the first to reach a loose ball in the box three consecutive times but couldn’t take advantage.
“It’s not who’s more skillful or who’s a better player,” Gutman said of the failure by the team to be the first to loose balls. “It’s just who wants it more.”
Montreal began to assert control in the second half. Franco was able to get back to break up a cross to Kei Kamara, who was open just yards in front of the goal in the 80th minute.
Montreal’s winner came after Miller beat two Atlanta United defenders to put in a cross that Torres headed into the opposite corner.
“We just switch off for a couple of minutes and it hurts us,” Gutman said. “For us, it’s just completing a full 90 minutes.”
Atlanta United twice put Breza under pressure in the final minutes with good crosses but couldn’t take advantage.
“Some tremendous (individual) performances but then at the end, again, we fall short,” Pineda said.
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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 vs. Chicago, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
May 15 vs. New England, 1:30 p.m., ESPN
May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX
May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
June 19 vs Miami, 3 p.m., ESPN2
June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC
July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1
July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
August 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC
August 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE
August 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
August 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1
August 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV
August 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
Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE