Atlanta United falls to New England

Damm, Barco leave the game early with possible injuries
Atlanta United head coach Gabriel Heinze.    “Curtis Compton /”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Atlanta United head coach Gabriel Heinze. “Curtis Compton /”

Atlanta United suffered its first loss in MLS play this season and second this week in a 2-1 loss at New England on Saturday.

Unlike Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Philadelphia in the first leg of their Champions League series, Atlanta United didn’t look like the better team. New England dominated in chances created (11 to Atlanta United’s 8) and could consider itself unlucky it didn’t score more goals other than Brandon Bye’s header and Carles Gil’s penalty, won controversially because the referee initially awarded a free kick and then changed it to a penalty kick despite there not being clear evidence that his initial ruling was incorrect.

Atlanta United’s (1-1-1) goal came on a penalty kick converted by Marcelino Moreno as the team’s offense continued its season-long scoring struggle. It has scored one goal or fewer in five of its six games across all competitions.

“We are hurting right now but it’s not a situation in which we need to panic,” centerback Anton Walkes said.

Making the loss potentially more impactful, Jurgen Damm and Ezequiel Barco left early with what appeared to be hamstring issues. Atlanta United will play at Philadelphia in the second leg of the series on Tuesday in Chester, Pa. Manager Gabriel Heinze didn’t have an update on either player after the game because he hadn’t yet had a chance to speak to the medical staff.

Manager Gabriel Heinze made four changes to the starting lineup, possibly in anticipation of Tuesday’s game in the Champions League, compared to the one used in the first leg earlier this week. Saturday’s 11 was goalkeeper Brad Guzan, centerbacks Walkes and Alan Franco, right fullback Brooks Lennon, left fullback Jake Mulraney in his first start at that position this season, midfielders Franco Ibarra, Santiago Sosa, Emerson Hyndman, Damm and Moreno, and striker Erick Torres.

New England took a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute when Bye beat Ibarra to the back post to head in a cross from Gil, who wasn’t pressured by Damm.

There had been warning signs.

Henry Kessler hit the post with a header a minute earlier after beating Franco to a long free kick. Tajon Buchanan had a header go just wide a few minutes earlier.

Damm sustained an injury to his right leg in the 21st minute tracking back to break up a New England attack. He was subbed off. Damm was reaching around to hold his hamstring as he walked off the field.

Gil just missed increasing Atlanta United’s deficit when he was left open in the penalty box. His shot went wide.

George Bello came on for Damm in the 26th minute. Mulraney moved to right wing.

Atlanta United looked exhausted. As evidence, by the 36th minute, three Atlanta United players, Mulraney, Franco and Sosa, had received yellow cards for late tackles. Offensively, the team had trouble stringing any kind of passes together other than those from centerback to centerback.

Still, Atlanta United tied the game on a penalty kick by Moreno in the 43rd minute. He won the penalty because he was brought down in the box by Bye after beating him in the 41st minute. Goalkeeper Mat Turner guessed correctly that Moreno was going to shoot into the lower left corner but he couldn’t stop the shot. Two of Atlanta United’s six goals this season were scored by penalty kick. It was Moreno’s first goal this season and his third successful penalty kick since joining Atlanta United in the final third of last season.

Heinze made two subs to start the second half. Miles Robinson came on for Franco and Barco for Ibarra. Atlanta United had difficulty winning aerial duals on at least three New England free kicks. Robinson may have come on to try to improve the defense on set pieces.

The changes didn’t positively affect Atlanta United’s play. It still had trouble getting the ball out of its third of the field because of the Revs’ well-executed pressure.

New England took a 2-1 lead on a penalty kick by Gil in the 53rd minute. It was won because Hyndman brought down Buchanan at the top of the box. Referee Chris Penso originally ruled that it was outside the box. But after reviewing the play on a monitor, he changed it to a penalty kick. Referees aren’t supposed to overturn their calls unless the mistake made was clear and obvious. Heinze said he doesn’t talk about decisions made by the referees. He said he hasn’t yet seen the images of the play.

Barco wasted Atlanta United’s first chance in the second half when he chose to dribble instead of one-timing a shot in a three-on-two break in the 59th minute. The chance came because of a Revs’ turnover and not because of good play by Atlanta United.

Josef Martinez and Erik Lopez came on for Torres and Mulraney in the 72nd minute.

Barco left the game in the 80th minute and appeared to be reaching for his left hamstring. Because Heinze had already used five subs the team was left to finish the remaining 10 minutes with 10 players.

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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

May 9 at Inter Miami, 1 p.m., ABC

May 15 vs. Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 23 at Seattle, 4:30 p.m., Fox

May 29 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 20 vs. Philadelphia, 2 p.m., ESPN

June 23 at NYCFC (at Red Bull Arena), TBD, BSSO/BSSE

June 27 vs. New York Red Bulls, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at Chicago, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 8 at Nashville, 8:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. New England, 5 p.m., ESPN

July 21 at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., FS1

July 24 vs. Columbus, 3:30 p.m., ABC

July 30 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ESPN

Aug. 4 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

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

Aug. 15 vs. LAFC, 4 p.m. ESPN

Aug. 18 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at D.C. United, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 28 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 10 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, B7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 18 vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 25 at Philadelphia,3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 29 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Oct. 2 at Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE