Atlanta United must create more chances against Columbus

Atlanta United midfielder Matheus Rossetto #20 dribbles the ball during the match against Cruz Azul at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday July 29, 2023. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United

Credit: Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United midfielder Matheus Rossetto #20 dribbles the ball during the match against Cruz Azul at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday July 29, 2023. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

Creating chances is job No. 1 for Atlanta United if it hopes to make it to Game 3 in its MLS playoff series against Columbus.

Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Columbus won 2-0 in Game 1, in part by limiting Atlanta United to one created chance, a franchise record-low one shot, and franchise record-tying no shots on goal, on Wednesday at Field. Thiago Almada, who scored 11 goals and recorded a league-high 19 assists, wasn’t available but will be eligible Tuesday.

“There’s always the small details that we can correct,” midfielder Matheus Rossetto said. “But I think, to attack better this game, we know we’ll have Thiago, and with him, he’s a big part of our attack, and things will change having him.”

Game 1 didn’t follow what was expected.

Columbus and Atlanta United were the two highest-scoring teams in MLS this season. Atlanta United, partially to overcome not having Almada, changed its formation to a 5-3-2 to clog the middle of the field and attempt to frustrate the Crew. It worked until Columbus created a turnover in its half and, in two passes, was on top of Atlanta United’s goal. Cucho Hernandez finished the sequence with a left-footed blast. Columbus’ other goal came from a penalty kick, also the product of an Atlanta United turnover.

Rossetto said the formation didn’t affect the team’s confidence or its timing in attack. Jamal Thiare, a second-half sub, created the only chance. It led to a Jay Fortune shot. Fortune said the formation change from the team’s usual 4-3-3 didn’t affect anything.

“I mean, obviously, when you’re comfortable in a certain formation, it’s very easy to tie that to it,” Fortune said. “There was a change, but I think, going into it, we knew what the game plan was.”

Atlanta United started only one of its two remaining Designated Players, MLS Newcomer of the Year Giorgos Giakoumakis, and couldn’t get its attack going. Manager Gonzalo Pineda said the players had chances to shoot, but made different choices.

They will have to shoot Tuesday. If they don’t, their season likely will be over.

“I think, for us, we know we, it’s a must win,” Fortune said. “And for that, we’ve just got to create some chances. I think that was the one thing we were missing in the game, I think, you know, (if) we created a couple more chances, it’s a different game. And also to it’s just managing the moments of the game a little bit better.”

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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1

March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0

March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1

March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1

April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0

April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1

April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2

April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1

April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1

May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1

May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1

May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0

May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 3

May 27 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

May 31 Atlanta United 3, New England 3

June 7 Atlanta United 0, LAFC 0

June 10 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 1

June 21 Atlanta United 2, New York City 2

June 24 New York Red Bulls 4, Atlanta United 0

July 2 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 0

July 8 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

July 12 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

July 15 Orlando City 2, Atlanta United 1

July 25 Miami 4, Atlanta United 0 in Leagues Cup

July 29 Cruz Azul 1 (5), Atlanta United (4) 1 in Leagues Cup

Aug. 20 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 0

Aug. 26 Atlanta United 4, Nashville 0

Aug. 30 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 2 Atlanta United 2, FC Dallas 2

Sept. 16 Atlanta United 5, Inter Miami 2

Sept. 20 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 1

Sept. 23 Atlanta United 4, Montreal 1

Oct. 4 Philadelphia 3, Atlanta United 2

Oct. 7 Atlanta United 1, Columbus 1

Oct. 21 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

Nov. 1 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 0