Apologies, team meeting follow Atlanta United’s home loss

Atlanta United forward Ronaldo Cisneros #29 dribbles the ball during the first half of the match against Austin FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, United States on Saturday July 9, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta United forward Ronaldo Cisneros #29 dribbles the ball during the first half of the match against Austin FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, United States on Saturday July 9, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda and captain Josef Martinez apologized after the team, wanting to start its three-game homestand with three points and a boost of confidence, instead was torn apart by Austin, 3-0, on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The margin matches the worst home defeat in team history.

After the game, there was a team meeting that lasted one hour, 10 minutes in which many players expressed their thoughts on what is happening with the squad, which has won just one of its past eight MLS games. The reasons for the stupor haven’t changed and were evident again in front of an announced attendance of 67,516. Players on defense committed numerous individual errors and failed to communicate. Three of Austin’s four shots on goal were successful. Players on offense, who were secured for millions of dollars, failed to show any chemistry. The team put just four of its 18 shots on goal. It was the second time this season that the team was shut out at home.

“We are embarrassed,” Pineda said.

Pineda said the players aren’t showing enough fight for each other and that will be the focus on improvement.

Martinez said he “100 percent agreed.

“It’s been happening for three months,” he said.

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Atlanta United’s starting 11 was composed of striker Martinez, left wing Ronaldo Cisneros, attacking midfielder, Thiago Almada, right wing Luiz Araujo, midfielders Matheus Rossetto and Franco Ibarra, right fullback Aiden McFadden, left fullback Caleb Wiley, centerbacks Alan Franco and George Campbell, and Rocco Rios Novo in goal. It was the second consecutive game that the team’s three DPs, Martinez, Araujo and Almada started. It was the second time in three games that Marcelino Moreno didn’t start.

Atlanta United dominated possession early and the players were making interesting off-the-ball runs.

But that good work stopped because Austin scored the first goal in the ninth minute on a header by Felipe, who was unmarked in the penalty box. The sequence started with an Atlanta United turnover in its defensive third. The ball was passed to Ethan Finlay, unmarked on the right. He crossed it to Martins.

As has been the case many times previously this season, Atlanta United seemed to lose its confidence.

“I think it’s not any more about only that ... the tactics and way to disrupt the field ... yes, we still want to play good football, we still want to create more and better chances than the opponent,” Pineda said. “But I felt that today we weren’t ready to fight in the game that they presented to us. I feel like we weren’t ready to win the duels, to do all the little things to run for each other. I felt that I didn’t prepare the team properly, in order to do that I had to show them that was the game plan for them. And that we need to to meet different expectations and standards for our team.”

Austin increased its lead to 2-0 in the 13th minute when Finlay pounced on a mishit clearance by Wiley, who was a few yards in front of goal.

Araujo received a yellow card in the 25th minute after he pushed Austin’s Jon Gallagher out of bounds. It was the second consecutive game that he pushed an opposing player. It was also his fifth yellow card this season so he will be suspended for Wednesday’s match.

Austin scored again in the 35th minute on another header by Felipe but it was wiped out by an offside call against the scorer.

After the first of Austin’s goals, Atlanta United’s offense became very static. Few off-the-ball runs were made. Despite having almost 70% of the possession, it put just one harmless shot on goal in the final seconds of the first half.

Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

Austin brought on its two leading scorers, Sebastian Driussi and Maxi Urruti, to start the second half. Atlanta United countered with Moreno on for Cisneros.

Austin increased its lead to 3-0 in the 57th minute when Driussi one-timed a shot into an open goal. He was the first to react to a shot by Urruti that hit the crossbar. Urruti was wide open in the middle of the pitch, about 20 yards from goal, because Franco left the space to pressure an Austin player. The sequence started with an Atlanta United attack featuring Martinez and Ibarra. It fizzled out and Austin quickly flipped the field.

Juan Jose Purata made his debut in the 67th minute for McFadden. Machop Chol also came on for Ibarra.

The team must quickly turn its focus to Real Salt Lake, another strong team from the Western Conference, on Wednesday, followed by Orlando on July 17.

“It’s about merging the passion, the desire, the heart, the willingness to do everything I have to do to win the game, then with the talent, I think we’re gonna find ways to score goals, “Pineda said. “But before all that it has to come the other part. And that’s where I feel we’re lacking more in these moments.”

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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

Wednesday 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

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

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE