Atlanta United looks meek in loss at Portland

Atlanta United's Brooks Lennon settles the ball during the first half against the host Timbers on Sunday. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United's Brooks Lennon settles the ball during the first half against the host Timbers on Sunday. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Needing to keep its season alive, Atlanta United put just two shots on goal in a sloppy-and-feeble 2-1 loss at Portland on Sunday.

Needing a win to try to keep alive its slim hopes of making the MLS playoffs, the Five Stripes were slow in possession and clumsy on defense. The Timbers took advantage by scoring their two goals on penalty kicks, one in each half.

Atlanta United’s only highlight was a headed goal by Josef Martinez in the 88th minute. It came on a corner kick from Marcelino Moreno. It was Martinez’s team-leading eighth goal.

“Obviously (frustrated) with the result,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “I feel like we can do better in certain moments in the final third.”

With the loss, Atlanta United (8-12-9) will be at least five points behind the seventh-place team for the final spot in the playoffs. Atlanta United has five games to try to make up that deficit. It fell to 1-9-5 on the road this season.

“The wingbacks, or whoever was out, was trying to put balls into the box,” wingback Brooks Lennon said. “We didn’t have the numbers that we expected, that we want, that we prepare for. So that was an issue for us tonight. Obviously, you’ve got to give credit to Portland and their defense. I thought they played well tonight. But, yeah, back to the drawing board and get back to film and understand the reasons why we didn’t create as many chances as we normally do.”

Lennon said he felt the team didn’t move the ball from side to side quickly enough. The team created just nine chances.

“If you don’t move a team quickly from side to side, shift the ball quickly, one or two touches, you’re gonna get yourself in trouble and, you know, that’s what happened to us,” Lennon said.

Pineda handed Raul Gudino his first start for the team in goal, replacing Rocco Rios Novo. The rest of the starting 11 was composed of striker Ronaldo Cisneros, supported by Thiago Almada, who earlier in the day was selected for Argentina’s preliminary roster for friendly games scheduled in September, and Luiz Araujo, with the central midfield consisting of Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra, paired together for the second consecutive game. The three centerbacks were Alan Franco, JuanJo Purata and Andrew Gutman. Lennon and Caleb Wiley were the wingbacks.

Gudino was selected partially because Rios Novo was responsible for two of the goals scored by Philadelphia in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss. The team had given up 12 goals in its past four games. Gudino was the fourth different goalkeeper used by Atlanta United this season. Gudino said Pineda told him that he’s been working hard, which is why he started.

Atlanta United didn’t put its first shot on goal until the 31st minute when Araujo got in one-on-one with Portland’s Aljaz Ivacic, who saved the first shot. The deflection went to Cisneros, who sliced his shot way wide from 12 yards.

Purata was called for a foul against Santiago Moreno in the penalty box in the 37th minute, resulting in a penalty kick for Portland. Moreno buried the kick into the upper left corner to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead in the 38th minute. Gudino guessed correctly but couldn’t stop the shot. It was the Timbers’ first shot on goal.

Despite playing against one of the worst defenses in MLS, Atlanta United created just three chances in the first half and put just one of its four shots on goal.

Pineda brought on Amar Sejdic for Ibarra to start the second half.

Held to one shot, which wasn’t on goal, through the first 16 minutes of the second half, Pineda put on Martinez and Edwin Mosquera in the 63rd minute for Cisneros and Wiley in an attempt to spark the offense.

It didn’t work.

Portland took a 2-0 lead in the 82nd minute on a penalty kick by Dairon Asprilla after Sosa fouled Diego Chara in the penalty box.

“Right off the game I’m frustrated, upset,” Pineda said. “But, obviously, we don’t gain anything. We need to overcome this part. Try to analyze the game. Try to see the next one next week, how we can approach that and how we can do it better.”

Still, despite winning just one of their previous six games, Atlanta United’s players still believe they will make the playoffs.

“Of course,” Gudino said. “We’re aware that we’ve got five games left, five finals. We have to play them like that. We’re going to try and take the maximum amount of points possible. And then once you’re in the playoffs, totally different competition.”

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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 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0

Aug. 6 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 1

Aug. 13 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

Aug. 17 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

Aug. 21 Atlanta United 2, Columbus 2

Aug. 28 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

Aug. 31 Philadelphia 4, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 4 Portland 2, Atlanta United 1

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