Atlanta United loses to Chivas in friendly; two players leave with injuries

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said he and his staff pushed the team hard during the week to improve its fitness, and he thought it showed Sunday. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said he and his staff pushed the team hard during the week to improve its fitness, and he thought it showed Sunday. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Atlanta United’s two weeks training in Guadalajara, Mexico, ended with two thuds Sunday.

The first team fell 3-0 to Mexican power Chivas at its training ground in a performance that was mostly flat on offense and at times uncoordinated on defense.

A second team composed of mostly reserves was beaten 3-0 by Tepatitlan, a second-division side, on another field at the same site. It was the team’s first two defeats in the preseason.

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Manager Gonzalo Pineda said he and his staff pushed the team hard during the week to improve its fitness, and he thought it showed Sunday.

“A lot of lessons for us and I think this is important we are preparing the system not just these games,” he said. “So, for us, it was good to see the reaction of the players, but obviously it’s frustrating to lose.”

Among those areas of improvement are continuing to refine ideas moving the ball forward and how to deal with an opponent’s press, goalkeeper Brad Guzan said.

Atlanta United will play its last friendly at Birmingham on Feb. 20 and will open its MLS season hosting Sporting KC on Feb. 27 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Among the lowlights: Atlanta United had two players, Franco Ibarra and Machop Chol, leave the first game with injuries. Josef Martinez, mostly ineffective, received a red card in the final minutes of the first game, and Alan Franco was sent off in the second game. Pineda said he didn’t have updates on Ibarra or Chol.

The first team had some good moments with getting into channels between defenders, but overall it couldn’t break down Chivas, which was composed of a few first-teamers and second-teamers. The team is in season in LIGA MX so it had a fitness and chemistry advantage on the Five Stripes. Unofficially, Atlanta United finished with five shots, two on goal, and never really threatened Chivas. The hosts finished with 10 shots, three on goal. Its goals were the results of mistakes made by Atlanta United on defense, one a turnover, one a set piece and one positioning.

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Thiago Almada was the highlight of Atlanta United’s starting 11 for the first game. Almada, signed as a designated player Wednesday, joined an attack that included Martinez and Luiz Araujo, the team’s other two DPs, in front of a midfield composed of Matheus Rossetto, Ibarra and Ozzie Alonso. Andrew Gutman and Ronald Hernandez were the fullbacks, with Miles Robinson and George Campbell the centerbacks, and Guzan.

Almada’s influence was limited by his inexperience with his teammates and his lack of fitness. He had the team’s only two shots on goal.

“We needed to be cautious with his time on the field, but I think he showed the qualities and the attributes, the passes that he can play forward, and I think he was a positive,” Pineda said.

Chivas took a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute on a penalty kick. Campbell was called for the penalty when he was forced to make a late tackle after a turnover by Robinson 30 yards from goal. It was the second goal allowed by the team in the preseason.

“A lot of lessons for us and I think this is important we are preparing the system not just these games. So, for us, it was good to see the reaction of the players, but obviously it's frustrating to lose."

- Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda, after Sunday's games

Atlanta United didn’t take its first shot until Almada put one on goal in the 28th minute. To that point, the team’s best tactic on offense was its press when Chivas had the ball. Several times, the Five Stripes came close to forcing a turnover deep in Chivas’ half.

Chivas increased its lead to 2-0 in the 43rd minute, this time on a corner kick. The ball went to an unmarked player near the back post, 12 yards from goal. He had time to trap the ball and then shoot.

Araujo dribbled through most of Chivas’ defense in the 49th minute, but his shot was palmed off the bar by Chivas’ goalkeeper. On the ensuing corner, Martinez headed the ball from the front post to the back, but Campbell was late to arrive and failed to score.

Tyler Wolff replaced Almada in the 50th minute. Ibarra was removed after a collision a minute later. The team played with 10 men for the next few minutes until Chol came on in the 56th minute.

A Chivas player was given a red card in the 57th minute after a hard tackle of Araujo. He remained in the game. Chol left after a hard tackle and was replaced by Caleb Wiley around the 66th minute.

Chivas took a 3-0 lead in the 73rd minute on a cheeky, left-footed flick around Robinson, who was bodying the Chivas player, and Guzan.

“You look at the goals and we’re going to certainly look back and think we could have been better on those goals,” Guzan said.

Among the first-team players who didn’t compete – Emerson Hyndman, Marcelino Moreno, Santiago Sosa and Jake Mulraney – Pineda said they are day to day and there is no need to risk pushing them.

Atlanta United’s second team was composed of striker Dom Dwyer, who is on trial with the team, Jackson Conway, Erik Centeno, Wolff, Amar Sejdic, Noah Cobb, Wiley, Franco, Alex de John, Aiden McFadden and goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

The team fell behind 1-0 on a header from a corner kick in the final minute of the first half. It fell behind 2-0 in the 59th minute when a Tepatitlan player beat Atlanta United’s high line and was in one-on-one against Shuttleworth. Franco was subsequently sent off for arguing, leaving the team with 10 players for the final 20 minutes. Tepatitlan scored its third in the 75th minute.

“They’re good exercises for us to have a real look where we need to get better and how to get better,” Guzan said. “I think this the entire day today is going to provide that for all of us.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 vs. Sporting KC, 3 p.m., FS1

March 5 at Colorado, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

March 13 vs. Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FS1

March 19 vs. Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 2 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 9 at Charlotte, 3 p.m., ESPN

April 16 vs. Cincinnati, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

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, 2 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