Atlanta United rallies to split points with Columbus

Atlanta United's Santiago Sosa kicks the ball during the match against the Crew on Sunday at Field in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/Atlanta United)

Credit: Ben Jackson/Atlanta United

Credit: Ben Jackson/Atlanta United

Atlanta United's Santiago Sosa kicks the ball during the match against the Crew on Sunday at Field in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/Atlanta United)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Playing arguably its best game this season, Atlanta United rallied to draw Columbus 2-2 on a rainy Sunday night at Field.

Goals by Santiago Sosa and JuanJo Purata offset two goals by Cucho Hernandez. Two more Atlanta United goals, one by Sosa and one by Edwin Mosquera, were disallowed by referee Joe Dickerson.

Atlanta United (7-10-9) improved to 1-7-5 on the road and 7-2-4 when scoring first. It dominated the Crew by taking 24 shots, putting nine on goal compared with Columbus’ 12 and eight. Atlanta United had an expected goals of 1.7 compared with Columbus’ 0.7.

With eight games remaining, starting next week against D.C. United, Atlanta United is five points away from Columbus for the seventh and final playoff spot.

“I felt we were superior to a very good team, which is encouraging,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “So the message is, let’s continue with these type of performances. And at the end of the day, I think after the next eight games, we’re going to get a reward.”

Pineda chose an interesting starting 11 that included Ronaldo Cisneros as a lone striker, with Luiz Araujo and Thiago Almada in support. Amar Sejdic and Sosa were paired in the central midfield for the first time this season, with Brooks Lennon and Caleb Wiley as the wingbacks, Alan Franco, Andrew Gutman and Purata as the centerbacks, and Rocco Rios Novo in goal. Josef Martinez started on the bench for the second time in three games. Marcelino Moreno started on the bench for the third time in five games.

As it did against Cincinnati and Red Bulls in its previous two games, Atlanta United played well in the opening minutes. It got its reward when Sosa hammered a shot into the upper right corner from 22 yards to give his team a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute. It was Sosa’s first goal in MLS. He had just missed wide left with a shot a minute earlier and had a header saved from a corner kick in the opening minutes. Wiley and Lennon were credited with assists. It was Wiley’s second assist and Lennon’s third.

“Happy to get the first goal, but I think as a group we’re a little bit upset with the result because we felt like we deserved enough to do better,” Sosa said.

Three minutes later, Columbus’ Steven Moreira was forced to deflect a cross by Wiley off the crossbar.

A second goal by Sosa in the 38th minute was ruled away by Dickerson because of a foul committed by an Atlanta United player at the far post. The wiped-away goal came on a corner kick and was Sosa’s third shot in the game from a set piece, all free kicks to the back post.

Sosa could be seen talking to Dickerson as they walked off the field at halftime. Sosa said Dickerson didn’t say why he waved off the goal.

It was the best first half played by Atlanta United this season. It finished the first 45 minutes with 11 shots, five on goal, to Columbus’ three and one.

“I think in terms of tactically, we had a good understanding of what our roles and responsibilities were individually and collectively, and I think that we were able to execute it well,” Sejdic said. “In terms of what the coaching staff wanted, we created a lot of chances. I think it’s a little frustrating, like many times before in the season, where we definitely kind of lose two points. But, nonetheless, I think the effort was great.”

Atlanta United continued its dominance in the opening minutes of the second half, but it was Columbus that struck next. Columbus went down the left side of Atlanta United’s defense with Kevin Molino and Luis Diaz connecting. Diaz put in a cross to the back post that Hernandez touched into the goal to tie the game in the 66th minute.

“I think it’s a great goal that we have to give them credit,” Pineda said. “It’s a great play. They unbalanced our left side. We have to do better at covering those gaps and also at defending the crosses.”

Instead of losing confidence, which has been an issue for the team this season, Atlanta United attacked and Eloy Room was forced to stop a point-blank header by Cisneros. The Five Stripes attacked again, and Room denied Araujo from close range in the 69th minute.

“It was inspiring the way they never give up,” Pineda said.

Franco Ibarra and Mosquera came in for Sejdic and Wiley in the 71st minute.

Hernandez struck again for Columbus in the 72nd minute by evading several defenders and slamming a shot into the roof of the net at the near post.

“I felt that the second one was more on us, individual defending inside the box,” Pineda said. “But also you have to give credit to a guy like Cucho.”

Mosquera appeared to tie the game in the 74th minute but was ruled offside.

Pineda put on Martinez and Dom Dwyer for Araujo and Cisneros in the 75th minute.

Atlanta United scored the tying goal in the 77th minute on a header by Purata from a corner kick. It was Purata’s second goal and Mosquera’s first assist.

“Overall, again, they scored two very good goals and we scored three very good goals, and maybe four, but in general the team was very good,” Pineda said.

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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

Aug. 6 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 1

Aug. 13 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

Aug. 17 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

Aug. 21 Atlanta United 2, Columbus 2

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

Aug. 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


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