Atlanta United plays Chicago to scoreless draw

Atlanta United defender Alan Franco #6 dribbles the ball during the first half of the match against Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field in Chicago, United States on Saturday July 30, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United defender Alan Franco #6 dribbles the ball during the first half of the match against Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field in Chicago, United States on Saturday July 30, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

CHICAGO -- Manager Gonzalo Pineda tried some different personnel combinations but Atlanta United finished the month of July with one victory in six games following a 0-0 draw with Chicago at Soldier Field on Saturday.

The team picked up just six points and fell to 1-7-3 away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium and 6-9-7 overall. It has won just two of its past 12 games and will likely find the three-point gap between itself and the seventh and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference growing wider once this weekend’s games are complete.

Atlanta United put just two of its 13 shots on goal. It was shut out for the second consecutive game and the sixth time despite fielding a starting lineup that included its three Designated Players. The team has scored three goals in its past five games. The defense notched its fourth shutout. Chicago put three of its 15 shots on goal.

But, Pineda said he thinks this was a draw from which the team can find momentum.

“I liked the passion and the intensity that the whole team showed, especially at the end of the game, with a lot of changes and a lot of things,” he said. “I felt that it was a positive performance. Obviously, we always want to win, but it was a positive performance for me.”

Atlanta United’s starting 11 solved problems Pineda has faced: how to get the three Designated Players on the field and keep the defense tight, and keep the team trying to play aggressively. That happened by continuing to play with three centerbacks, George Campbell, Alan Franco and JuanJo Purata, but with Luiz Araujo playing as a right wing, not wingback, with Caleb Wiley as the left wingback. Up top, Josef Martinez, making his first start after coming off the bench the past two games, and Ronaldo Cisneros were dual strikers with Thiago Almada, making his first start after coming off the bench the past two games, Santiago Sosa, making his fourth start, and Matheus Rossetto playing in the central midfield. Rocco Rios Novo started in goal. Pineda described it as a 4-2-3-1.

Atlanta United moved the ball better in the first half but could only put one of its eight shots on goal. The most egregious miss happened just before halftime when Almada put a shot wide from close range with the goal’s opposite corner gaping.

Aiden McFadden came on for Campbell at halftime.

Chicago thought it had a 1-0 lead on a goal by Xherdan Shaqiri in the 54th minute. A video review determined that he was offside and the goal was taken away, leaving the match tied and the Five Stripes with some life. Atlanta United is 0-7-3 this season when the opponent scores first.

Andrew Gutman made his return from injury as Araujo’s replacement in the 75th minute. Gutman hasn’t played since suffering a quad injury against Nashville on May 21.

Dom Dwyer, Franco Ibarra and Marcelino came on in the 81st minute for Cisneros, Wiley and Rossetto.

Atlanta United’s defense held steady in the final minutes with Chicago pressing with numerous crosses and corner kicks.

“As a defender, and being on the back line, that’s where we want the shutout,” Wiley said. “But I think the other important thing is scoring the goals. And that was something that we’re missing today.”

Pineda said he was pleased that his team maintained its focus throughout, which has been an issue this season. Chicago put in 21 crosses and seven corner kicks in the game.

“With the situation we’re coming here after the last game, a very, very bad loss, in my opinion, the last one, we needed to not lose,” he said. “We needed just to be stable, solid. I think the performance was very positive. This point can build something again.”

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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 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0

August 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

August 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

August 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 21 at Columbus, 5:30 p.m., FS1

August 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

August 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

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