Atlanta United owned by Orlando in loss

Team is winless in its past six games and its playoff hopes are getting slim

Atlanta United’s playoff hopes are not yet officially kaput, but they are very close after Wednesday’s 4-1 loss at Orlando.

The team started brightly with six shots in the first 20 minutes but gave up a weak goal when two players didn’t communicate, and then another on a free kick before the end of the half. After that first goal, Atlanta United reverted to the poor form that it has shown most of the season. It lacked urgency and imagination despite knowing that it was likely playing for its postseason life.

“In final third we are looking for a little bit more, which wasn’t there tonight,” interim manager Stephen Glass said.

Atlanta United extended its winless streak to six games and fell to 0-12-2 when it concedes the first goal.

Now, Atlanta United must win its final two games against Cincinnati on Sunday at Columbus on Decision Day and hope myriad results go its way to even have a chance to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The teams around it in the MLS East had a mixed bag of results, but the Five Stripes fell from 12th to 13th in the East with six points remaining to be won from its final two games. The top 10 teams will qualify for the playoffs. Atlanta United remains with 19 points. It trails 10th-place Miami by two points. Atlanta United trails ninth-place Montreal by four points.

Atlanta United’s lone bright spot was Erick Torres' goal in the 87th minute. It was his first for the club.

Atlanta United’s starting 11 featured many of its fastest and most skilled players on offense for the second consecutive game. In addition to Ezequiel Barco, Marcelino Moreno and Jurgen Damm, the lineup included Matheus Rossetto, Adam Jahn, Mo Adams, George Bello, Laurence Wyke, making just his second start this season, Fernando Meza, Anton Walkes and Brad Guzan.

In a change from most games, and one Glass has said many times he wants to see, Atlanta United came out playing aggressively. Barco put a shot on goal from a long-range free kick in the third minute. Adams and Bello put Orlando players on the ground with hard challenges.

Barco put another shot on goal in the 13th minute but the weak, right-footed effort from 18 yards was easily saved by Orlando’s Pedro Gallese.

The shot was the result of a counterattack down the middle of the pitch, led by Moreno. It was something the team was able to create again a few minutes later but again the play ended with Barco, this time by a tackle.

Damm followed by beating his man by cutting inside but his left-footed shot from 18 yards in the 20th minute went inches wide. He is primarily right-footed.

But, as has been the case most of the season, Orlando scored first. Daryl Dike, loosely marked by Walkes, received a pass, spun to his left and put a shot into the lower right corner in the 29th minute. The goal underscored the absence of centerback Miles Robinson, who was listed as medically not cleared to play. Robinson would likely have been tasked with marking the physical Dike in most situations.

Orlando had a goal called back a few minutes later and then Tesho Akindele forced Guzan into a save in the 37th minute when the defenders were again left watching the ball as it was passed back and forth and not marking players.

Orlando increased its lead to 2-0 on a free kick by Chris Mueller just before the end of the half. Mueller’s free kick was from 20 yards and curled from right to left and into the corner. The kick was the result of a foul by Wyke on Mueller.

“You think that it’s probably going to get saved, probably going to be missed,” Wyke said. “It really wounded us going in 2-nil.”

Glass tried to spark the offense by bringing on Brooks Lennon, the team’s best crosser, for Walkes in the 50th minute.

Akindele scored to give Orlando a 3-0 lead in the 60th minute. Dike, who rounded Wyke, was credited with the assist.

Orlando tacked on a fourth in stoppage time on another free kick that deflected off two players before slowly rolling across the line and past a sprawled Guzan.

Atlanta United upcoming games

Sunday vs. Cincinnati (4-12-4), 7 p.m., FSSE

Nov. 8 at Columbus (10-4-5), 3:30 p.m., FSSE

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