Atlanta United loses in familiar way to Chicago

Credit: Atlanta United

Credit: Atlanta United

Faced with a chance to build on its mid-week win against Dallas, Atlanta United instead reverted to the form it has shown for most of the MLS season in Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Chicago.

Playing without several key starters, Atlanta United’s defense was slow to react in several key moments — some were punished and quite a few weren’t — and its offense couldn’t overcome excellent goalkeeping or take advantage when it had quality chances. The team fell to 0-8-1 when conceding first and was shut out for the fifth time.

Hampered by giving up yet another early goal, it was the team’s (4-8-2; 14 points) fourth loss in its past five games and it dropped into 11th place and below the 10-team playoff line for the second time in eight days. Atlanta United will play at D.C. United (2-7-5; 11 points), last in the East, on Saturday in an important game in the playoff race.

“We were looking to be a little more aggressive at the start of the game, similar to Dallas,” interim manager Stephen Glass said. “For whatever reason, it didn’t happen. We played into their hands, and missed opportunities to go forward. They got their goal, got their confidence and started flowing through us.”

Atlanta United was without midfielders Ezequiel Barco (leg) and Jurgen Damm (hamstring) for the third consecutive game, and centerback Miles Robinson and midfielder Matheus Rossetto, each of whom left the win against Dallas at halftime with undisclosed injuries. Barco did train with the team on Saturday. The players are considered day-to-day by the team. The lineup was composed of striker Adam Jahn, midfielders Jon Gallagher, Jake Mulraney, Emerson Hyndman and Jeff Larentowicz, fullbacks George Bello and Brooks Lennon, centerbacks Fernando Meza and Franco Escobar, and goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

For all the talk about renewed focus and aggressiveness after the 1-0 win against Dallas, the lacking Atlanta United that preceded that win showed up in Chicago.

Chicago jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute on a goal by Fabian Herbers. The sequence started with Remedi getting disposed near midfield. Chicago took advantage with four players running at two Atlanta United defenders. It was the third good chance that Chicago created in the first few minutes. It was the sixth goal allowed by Atlanta United in a game’s first 15 minutes this league season.

Glass said the team seems to lose a bit of confidence once it gives up an early goal and he doesn’t know why but it’s important to figure it out.

Chicago goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth denied Jahn in the 19th minute. Jahn received the ball in the penalty box, spun and hit a volley that Shuttleworth stopped with his right hand. Escobar sent a header inches wide on the ensuing corner kick.

Chicago increased its lead to 2-0 in the 39th minute on a goal by Robert Beric, who was left unmarked 18 yards from goal in the center of the pitch. Atlanta United’s back line appeared to try to step up to put Beric into an offside position. But Bello was a half-step back, leaving Beric onside. He received a pass Djordje Mihailovic and calmly slotted his shot in the lower left corner.

Guzan stopped Beric, again left unmarked in the center of the box, in the 50th minute to keep Atlanta United from falling behind 3-0.

Guzan sounded frustrated after the game, asking how many times Chicago’s players dribbled yards and yards down the field, or how many Chicago attackers were given space in dangerous areas, compared to Atlanta United’s, who he said were getting pressured.

Guzan came up with another save in the 52nd minute when Mihailovic, running from the center to the left, got behind the defense.

After a good series of passes, an unmarked Mulraney missed a left-footed volley in the 56th minute, putting his shot over the crossbar from just a few yards away.

Shuttleworth denied Jahn again, this time in the 58th minute, on a diving header from a cross by Gallagher. It was Atlanta United’s last quality scoring chance. It produced two shots, one on goal, after that moment. Neither were threatening.

“On a different day we have a different result but it didn’t happen today,” Jahn said.


Atlanta United coming games

Oct. 3 at D.C. United (2-5-5), 7 p.m., FSS

Oct. 7 vs. Orlando (6-2-4), 7 p.m., FSS

Oct. 10 vs. New York Red Bulls (4-6-2), 6 p.m., FSS

Oct. 14 at Miami (3-7-2), 8 p.m., FSS

Oct. 18 at Toronto (6-2-4) in Hartford, Conn., 7:30 p.m., FSS

Oct. 24 vs. D.C. United (2-5-5), 4 p.m., FSS

Oct. 28 at Orlando (6-2-4), 7:30 p.m., FS1

Nov. 1 vs. Cincinnati (3-6-3), 7 p.m., FSS

Nov. 8 at Columbus (8-1-3), 3:30 p.m., FSS

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