This probably was not the way Atlanta United wanted to go into a three-week break between games.
A goal by Marcelino Moreno and another by Erik Lopez, his first for the club, were offset by two scores in three minutes by Hany Mukhtar late in the game in a 2-2 draw with Nashville on Saturday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Nashville hadn’t conceded a goal in the previous 408 minutes before the start of Saturday’s game, but the Five Stripes’ offense, inconsistent most of the season, had no trouble finding holes to exploit. It finished with 12 shots, five on goal. It was the second of 11 games this season in which Atlanta United scored more than one goal, but the team may regret its missed chances. Nashville finished with 14 shots, five on goal, its last two proving to be the difference against a defense that had been Atlanta United’s constant this season while it waited on the offense to get going.
“It’s true that the team was better for most of the game, but this moment where we were not calm is what will bring you back,” Atlanta United manager Gabriel Heinze said.
Heinze said he wasn’t sure if there were defensive breakdowns by Atlanta United’s players on Nashville’s two goals, but he said they weren’t paying attention to the plays.
The draw came in front of an announced attendance of 40,748 and lifted Atlanta United (2-1-4) to 10 points in the East. The team will be off the next two weeks during FIFA’s international break. It will host Philadelphia on June 20.
Atlanta United’s starting 11 was composed of Brad Guzan in goal, fullback Brooks Lennon and George Bello, centerbacks Miles Robinson and Anton Walkes, central midfielders Santiago Sosa, Emerson Hyndman and Moreno, wingers Jake Mulraney and Lopez and striker Josef Martinez. The only change from last week was Mulraney in for Franco Ibarra, with Moreno shifting from the wing to inside.
Atlanta United grabbed a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute when Moreno was the first to get to a long pass from Robinson. With a defender on his hip, Moreno hit a shot into the ground and through Joe Willis’ legs. The goal snapped Nashville’s shutout streak at 414 minutes. Robinson was credited with his first-ever assist in MLS, and it was Moreno’s third goal this season.
This was the second consecutive week that Robinson unlocked a defense with a long pass. His 50-yard effort last week resulted in Brooks Lennon winning a penalty to earn a 1-1 draw at Seattle.
Atlanta United put Nashville under pressure again in the 18th minute when Martinez took off on a run of some 20 yards that ended with Willis putting up a hand to save a shot by Lopez after Martinez was dispossessed six yards from goal.
Nashville had a goal pulled back because Alex Muyl was offside in the 21st minute.
Atlanta United put four shots on goal during the first half. Nashville had faced only seven shots on goal during its 408-minute streak that preceded Saturday’s game. Nashville put only one shot on goal during the half.
Atlanta United took a 2-0 lead in the 51st minute on a goal by Lopez, cheekily taken because he hit the ball with his right foot as he sprinted across Willis. It was assisted by Bello, his first of the season, and Moreno, also his first. Moreno started by dribbling 40 yards down the field before passing it into space for Bello to run onto down the left. As he approached the end line in his pursuit of Moreno’s pass, Bello hit a low cross six yards in front of Willis’ goal. Lopez, sprinting from the right, got to the ball first at the near post. Lopez said it was the first goal he’s scored by backheeling the ball. He said it’s a goal he will always remember because it was not only his first, but his first at home with Atlanta United.
“I saw him making the run from the far post,” Bello said. “It was a great run. I knew they would expect me to lift it to Josef. It was a better finish than assist, for sure. I’m happy for him.”
Ezequiel Barco, who missed the previous four games because of a lower body injury, came on for Mulraney in the 58th minute.
Lopez just missed a second goal in the 66th minute. With only Willis to beat, Lopez put his shot over the crossbar.
Martinez missed an opportunity for a one-on-one with Willis when he was tackled off the ball in the penalty box a few minutes later.
The missed opportunities proved decisive.
Nashville scored in the 80th minute on a goal by Mukhtar. The visitors had applied pressure to Atlanta United’s defense for the preceding minutes, but the goal was their second shot on goal in the half and third in the game.
Nashville scored its tying goal less than two minutes later on another goal by Mukhtar. A shot from about 20 yards bounced off Robinson and went to Mukhtar, who was unmarked at the back post. Heinze said Mukhtar should not have been left unmarked. He declined to say which player was responsible for marking Mukhtar, only saying that the player wasn’t prepared, shifting the responsibility for the mistake onto him.
“Go through thinking you are playing well, the team’s going well. … Results like that, if feels like a loss,” Bello said. “But it’s in the past now. We have to regroup.”
For more content about Atlanta United
Follow me on Twitter @DougRobersonAJC
On Facebook at Atlanta United News Now
Atlanta United coverage on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 1,
May 15 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0
May 23 Atlanta United 1, Seattle 1
May 29 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2
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, 7 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