CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Undone by one of the rarest goals in soccer, Atlanta United was beaten by Charlotte 1-0 on Sunday in an MLS game at Bank of America Stadium.
Missing several players because of injuries, Atlanta United’s habit of turning negative results into positive ones with goals in stoppage time ended at three consecutive games. It was the team’s (3-2-1) second loss on the road this season. It will host Cincinnati on April 16.
The winning goal came unassisted on a corner kick, dubbed an “Olimpico,” in the first half.
Despite leading the game in shots (16-15), shots on goal (6-4) and expected goals (1.34-0.90), Atlanta United was shut out for the second time this season. Both came on the road. Atlanta United’s offense was hurt by inconsistency and Charlotte’s pressure in the first half and the host’s tendency to stop Atlanta United’s attacks with fouls, which also affected the visitor’s rhythm. Charlotte committed 17 fouls to Atlanta United’s nine.
“We could have scored and maybe the story of the game could have been different, but I’m happy with some parts of our game,” Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said.
Despite playing with two wingbacks, with the goal of putting balls in from out wide, Atlanta United had just nine crosses, eight fewer than Charlotte. Pineda said he thought the team did a better job in the second half getting the ball out wide to the wingbacks to put in crosses. He said Charlotte overloaded the central midfield in the first half, which made it hard for Atlanta United’s playmakers to find attacking teammates. The team also didn’t move the ball very quickly with one-touch passing or by switches from one side to the other.
“I think once we start to find Marcelino (Moreno) in areas we are creative, we start to have something in behind,” Pineda said. “That’s something we need to improve, making runs in behind and try to stretch the backline.”
With the team hurt by injuries, including to standout striker Josef Martinez, Pineda chose Dom Dwyer to start up with Moreno and Thiago Almada in support. Amar Sejdic and Santiago Sosa replaced the injured Matheus Rossetto and Ozzie Alonso in the midfield. Pineda went back to three centerbacks, something he used frequently last year and also in the end of last week’s win at D.C. United. They were Miles Robinson, Alan Franco and George Campbell. Brooks Lennon and Andrew Gutman were on the wings, with Brad Guzan in goal.
After a long spell of possession to start the game, Atlanta United played as if it were very nervous once Charlotte gained control of the ball. The hosts took advantage on their third corner when Jordy Alcivar scored unassisted on a corner kick, bending the shot into the back corner and past a flapping Guzan in the 11th minute. The goal seemed like it was coming because Charlotte players were twice first to the ball on their previous two corners.
Guzan said the ball got caught in the wind, and he got caught on the front foot. He said he wasn’t interfered with.
Giving up that first goal was not a good omen for Atlanta United, which was 2-27-7 in its history when conceding the opening goal on the road.
As his team was lining up for the restart, Pineda could be seen motioning for the players to calm down.
Atlanta United missed on its best chance to tie the game in the 23rd minute when Almada played in Dwyer with only the goalkeeper to beat from a challenging angle. Dwyer hooked his left-footed shot across the goal and out for a throw-in on the opposite side of the field.
Gutman was denied three minutes later when his low, hard shot from a tight angle was blocked by Charlotte’s Kristijan Kahlina.
Atlanta United put together a nice passing sequence in the 32nd minute that ended with an Almada shot pushed wide for the team’s first corner.
“The second half we were all over them, we just struggled to put the ball in the back of the net. Sometimes you need that little bit extra, almost will the ball into the back of the net."
- Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan
But the first half was a study in players being static when Atlanta United had the ball. Few off-the-ball runs were made. Moreno and Almada had great difficulty receiving the ball and then finding teammates in good spaces.
“That is something that we didn’t do today, that we need to improve on is getting runners in behind into those primary assist zones that Gonzalo talks about so that we can create better goal-scoring opportunities,” Lennon said.
Pineda said the team didn’t change tactics to start the second half, but the team started to play better.
Pineda took off Franco, replacing him with Franco Ibarra, and Jake Mulraney replaced Sejdic in the 60th minute. The subs resulted in a formation change to try to spark the offense.
Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0 (match statistics)
Ronaldo Cisneros made his debut in the 65th minute, coming on for Dwyer. Cisneros is on loan from Chivas in LIGA MX.
Atlanta United began to take control of the game as it searched for the equalizing goal. It passed Charlotte’s totals in shots and shots on goal with 10 minutes remaining.
Pineda brought on Caleb Wiley for Sosa in the 81st minute to play on the left wing.
Atlanta United’s last best chance came in the 88th minute when Wiley put a header from a few yards away just wide.
“The second half we were all over them, we just struggled to put the ball in the back of the net,” Guzan said. “Sometimes you need that little bit extra, almost will the ball into the back of the net.”
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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 vs. Cincinnati, 6 p.m., Peachtree TV
April 24 at Miami, 1 p.m., ESPN
April 30 at Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
May 7 vs. Chicago, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
May 15 vs. New England, 1:30 p.m., ESPN
May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX
May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
June 19 vs. Miami, 4 p.m., ESPN2
June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
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
Aug. 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC
Aug. 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1
Aug. 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV
Aug. 31 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
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
Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE