Atlanta United has just two shots on goal in loss at Toronto

Atlanta United defender Aidan Mcfadden dribbles the ball during the first half of the match against Toronto FC at BMO Field in Toronto, Canada on Saturday June 25, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United defender Aidan Mcfadden dribbles the ball during the first half of the match against Toronto FC at BMO Field in Toronto, Canada on Saturday June 25, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Saturday started with promise for Atlanta United.

The team was going to get to field the same starting lineup, which had won its previous two games, for the third consecutive game, which would be a first this season.

It was facing Toronto, which had one of the worst defenses in MLS.

And then things got weird.

First, Brooks Lennon had to be carried off the field during warmups because of a yet-to-be-disclosed injury to his left knee. Then, Atlanta United gave up a goal in the eighth minute. But it rallied on a goal by Luiz Araujo in the second half to tie the game at 1 before giving up a deflected goal to Ralph Priso in the 78th minute to lose 2-1. The defeat dropped the team to 1-6-1 on the road this season with very tough games coming up at the New York Red Bulls and at New York City FC. The team has not won in eight regular-season games at either place.

“A lot of good plays, we just couldn’t capitalize on that in scoring more goals,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “And obviously, the individual mistakes on the back, maybe costing us a lot more. And that’s part of the nature of the game.”

Atlanta United put just two of its 15 shots on goal. It lost the expected goals stat 1.54 to 1.3. Toronto had allowed 29 goals in its 17 games.

Atlanta United midfielder Marcelino Moreno, center, is fouled by Toronto FC midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo (10) during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

The starting lineup was supposed to be Josef Martinez at striker with Ronaldo Cisneros, Marcelino Moreno and Araujo in support. Emerson Hyndman and Franco Ibarra anchored the midfield. Lennon was supposed to be one of the fullbacks but was injured during warmups and replaced by Aiden McFadden, who was making his first start, with Caleb Wiley on the left, George Campbell and Alan Franco the centerbacks with Rocco Rios Novo in goal. Thiago Almada was serving the second of a three-game suspension.

Hyndman said the loss of Lennon didn’t affect the team.

“We all felt for him, obviously,” Hyndman said. “Obviously, he’s a great guy. He’s a hard worker. You know, the way it happened, obviously, just think he slipped on the sideline. You know, you never want to see that.”

Toronto grabbed a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute on a goal by Jonathan Osorio, who ran into the penalty box unmarked, caught up to a pass from Jayden Nelson, rounded Franco close to goal and beat Rios Novo to the near post. The sequence started with a turnover by Campbell in the defensive third of the field, which left Atlanta United’s defenders exposed. Two moved to Nelson, leaving Osorio free.

With McFadden’s insertion into the lineup, Atlanta United’s back four and goalkeeper had a combined experience in MLS of 76 games before Saturday.

Pineda said he wouldn’t blame the inexperience of the players for the goal.

“We need to continue with the progression of the style of the team,” Pineda said. “I think the team is trying to play the way we want to play. We came to a tough place to play. And I felt that we were on the front foot, the 90 minutes, we were trying to be proactive about creating chances. But obviously, those mistakes hurt us and I mean, it happens, we need to clean that up and try to do better.”

Atlanta United tried to create chances but a lack of sharpness with its shooting and passing on Toronto’s defensive third of the field resulted in it continuing to trail because it failed to put a shot on goal in the half.

“I think that once we get in the final third, we were not connecting those crosses to Joseph or Ronaldo very often,” Pineda said. “And that’s part of why we didn’t create enough chances.”

Atlanta United’s first shot on goal tied the game at 1 when Araujo chipped the ball past Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westberg in the 57th minute. The sequence started with a Toronto turnover in its half of the field. Ibarra passed to Araujo, who dribbled past a Toronto defender before facing Westberg for his fourth goal this season to tie the team lead.

Atlanta United’s best chance to complete the rally came when Martinez played in Araujo from midfield. Araujo collided with Westberg about 35 yards from goal. Both players were examined by team trainers. Both returned to play.

And then Toronto finished the game with a goal from Priso.

“It’s very frustrating,” Hyndman said. “But we’re on the road for two more games. And we know we have to pick up points. We were frustrated tonight. You saw it as definitely at least a couple of points dropped tonight. Obviously, we didn’t play our best but I think there were still points to be had, at least one. So we’re frustrated with that. But like I said, we had to move on to really tough games.”

Atlanta United midfielder Marcelino Moreno, center, takes the ball between Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola and midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo, right, during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, June 25, 2022, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

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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 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

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, 5:30 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