It took until the 13th time the teams met in the MLS regular season, but Atlanta United finally defeated the New York Red Bulls 1-0 on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
A goal by Giorgios Giakoumakis was enough to put a skinny line in the win column to sit beside eight losses and four draws for Atlanta United (4-1-1) against the Red Bulls in front of an announced attendance of 43,511.
“We were thinking back to who we are; that was the theme of the weekend,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “And the players showed who they are today, a team that wants to play always shows. There’s another word but (it is) bravery.”
Atlanta United posted its second shutout this season in bouncing back from last week’s 6-1 loss at Columbus.
“It was important that we corrected things from last week in terms of our mentality, in terms of our application in the game,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “We knew today was going to be a different type of game, we had to roll our sleeves up with it and fight and battle.”
It was a physically and mentally draining game against the Red Bulls, with the teams combining for just six shots on goal but 10 yellow cards handed out by referee Alex Chilowicz.
Atlanta United finished with eight shots, four on goal. The Red Bulls finished with 15 and two. Atlanta United won more duels, 59-56, which was a key stat referenced by Pineda and Guzan as an example of the team’s fight.
Atlanta United’s starting 11 was composed of striker Giakoumakis, wingers Luiz Araujo and Derrick Etienne and attacking midfielder Thiago Almada. It was the first time this season that quartet started together. The rest featured midfielders Amar Sejdic and Franco Ibarra, fullbacks Brooks Lennon and Caleb Wiley, centerbacks Miles Robinson and JuanJo Purata and Guzan.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Atlanta United grabbed a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute on a goal by Giakoumakis, who was first to react to a spilled save by Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel. The first shot was taken by Almada from about 20 yards away on the left side of the pitch. Almada said the shot didn’t swerve. It was just hit hard. The sequence started with a long diagonal from Robinson to Etienne, who laid the ball off to Almada. It was Giakoumakis’ second goal this season.
“It’s an amazing feeling to score,” said Giakoumakis, who noted the game felt like those in Scotland, where he played for Celtic before coming to Atlanta United. “It’s an amazing feeling to contribute in order to collect some points. It wasn’t the easiest game I’ve had so far. But in the end, we wanted the points.”
The rest of the half was chaotic soccer with six yellow cards, four to Red Bulls players. There are two moments, one a foul committed on Guzan by Cory Burke that was the game’s first yellow, and another no-call when Coronel impeded Almada’s ability to get the ball that perhaps should have been reviewed.
Atlanta United 1, Red Bulls 0
Giakoumakis received the seventh yellow card in the 55th minute and the Red Bulls’ Sean Nealis the eighth in the 56th minute as the intensity didn’t dissipate. Both were the result of a hard tackle by Giakoumakis. He said he wasn’t trying to send a message with the tackle. He just wanted to make sure he got the ball. Etienne had been pushed over a few seconds before and no foul was given.
Pineda brought on Machop Chol and Matheus Rossetto for Etienne and Sejdic in the 73rd minute to try to calm the game down.
Rossetto got forward and put a shot from 12 yards over the goal after receiving a pass from Lennon. Giakoumakis put a shot over the bar from even closer range a few minutes later.
Pineda said he was pleased that the team got into those good positions late in the game.
Atlanta United needed a bit of luck. A turnover by Almada in the 88th minute gave the Red Bulls a chance to counter. That opportunity was wasted with a shot over the goal. It was the second time in the half that Almada tried a cross-field pass that was intercepted by a Red Bulls player to start a counter.
“I felt that today, the team understood how to adapt to that in the moments we were under pressure, but also understood how to control the game with the ball,” Pineda said. “So again, people telling me possession doesn’t matter, Today, we had almost 60% of possession. And that’s how I want to defend most of the time.”
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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 at New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.
April 15 at Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m.
April 23 vs. Chicago Fire FC, 4:30 p.m., FS1
April 29 at Nashville SC, 1:30 p.m., Fox
May 6 at Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.
May 13 vs. Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m.
May 17 vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m.
May 20 at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m.
May 27 at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m.
May 31 vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m., FS1
June 3 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
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