Atlanta United secures draw with NYCFC

Atlanta United's Caleb Wiley dribbles during the match against NYCFC on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The teams played to a 2-2 draw. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United's Caleb Wiley dribbles during the match against NYCFC on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The teams played to a 2-2 draw. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

NEW YORK — An Atlanta United road trip that started with the hope of taking nine points instead finished with just one, albeit a good one, thanks to a 2-2 draw against NYCFC on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

The previous two games ended with losses at Toronto and Red Bulls in which the team felt it should have come away with at least four points.

Josef Martinez and Dom Dwyer, who came on as a second-half sub, scored for Atlanta United. Dwyer’s goal came in the 86th minute.

The plot Sunday was similar as the previous two games. Atlanta United (5-7-5) played well enough to provide hope, rallied to tie the game on a goal by Martinez, only to give up a disappointing goal a few minutes later during a moment in which it lost focus. This time, Dwyer kept the team from failing to earn a point from three consecutive games for just the third time in franchise history. The team has earned seven points from a losing or drawing position in the final five minutes of games this season.

“A needed point,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “I think, obviously, we always want to win, but based on the last few results we got, I think it was a very valuable point. A point that gives us a little bit of momentum coming into three matches at home. So I felt that it was very valuable.”

The team has won just two of its past 12 league games, and the tough stretch continues with seven of its next eight games against teams currently above the playoff lines in the Eastern and Western conferences. Atlanta United will host Austin on Saturday in the first of three consecutive home games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“Well, obviously coming into the game, we wanted to win and get all three points,” Ronaldo Cisneros said. “But we know that New York City is a very good side. They’re the reigning MLS champions, so we know it was a difficult game, and I think the fact that we came back in the match to get a point, you know, is a positive, but, of course, when we play the next game, we want to go for all three points.”

The day started with potential because the starting lineup, for the first time this season, included Martinez, Luiz Araujo and Thiago Almada, the trio of high-priced attackers. Injuries and Almada’s three-game suspension, which ended Sunday, had prevented Pineda from including all three DPs in the same starting 11. The rest of the lineup included Marcelino Moreno, Amar Sejdic and Matheus Rossetto in the midfield, Caleb Wiley and Aiden McFadden as the fullbacks, George Campbell and Alan Franco as the centerbacks, and Rocco Rios Novo in goal.

Atlanta United’s back four and goalkeeper included just one player, Franco, who had ever started a game at Yankee Stadium, which has unusual sightlines and configurations across the outfield and part of the infield used by the MLB hosts.

Atlanta United repeatedly tried to play through NYCFC’s pressure, mostly unsuccessfully. NYCFC turned one turnover into a shot on goal that got past Rios Novo but was cleared off the line by Campbell in the eighth minute.

NYCFC consistently was able to connect passes to runners behind Atlanta United’s back line but wasn’t able to take advantage of the space or time on the ball.

Another near-goal was cleared off the line by Franco in the 24th minute.

Atlanta United created a chance in the 25th minute when Campbell played a ball over the top to Wiley, who put in a cross to Martinez. Martinez failed to put his shot on goal from 14 yards. It was Martinez’s second shot of the game.

Atlanta United was fortunate in the 35th minute when Valentin Castellanos, last season’s Golden Boot winner, was left unmarked yards from goal but put his header over the crossbar.

NYCFC finally took advantage of one of its runs behind Atlanta United’s back line when Castellanos beat Franco and Campbell to a pass from Talles Magno, and then put a shot past Rios Novo to the near post with a goal in the 37th minute to give his team a 1-0 lead. Castellanos’ run started with Franco marking him and continued with him gliding past Campbell’s back shoulder. Campbell tried to chase him down while Franco jogged back with his arm raised in an unsuccessful attempt to signal offside.

NYCFC opened the second half by again taking advantage of a runner behind Atlanta United’s defense, followed by a cross cut back into the penalty box, but the subsequent shot bounced off the post and was cleared.

Atlanta United tied the game in the 57th minute when Martinez got behind NYCFC’s defense and put a header into the lower right corner of Sean Johnson’s goal. It was his fifth goal this season. Almada was credited with the assist, his fourth.

But, as has been the case all season, Atlanta United lost its focus, and NYCFC went down the middle of the field to take a 2-1 lead in the 58th minute on another goal by Castellanos. Magno was credited with his second assist of the game. McFadden said he could have done better on the play. He said he tried to kick the ball out for a throw-in. That attempt was blocked. He said next time he will kick it out for a corner kick.

“There are moments in the game when you face teams like these that are very good,” Pineda said. “There are moments where they come with everything, you have to absorb pressure, and we need to learn that you need to learn that. It’s not always like we’re going to play very good and having total control of the game. It’s going to happen. And I felt that today we handled that OK.”

Atlanta United’s tying goal was similar to the tactic used by NYCFC. Cisneros, a second-half sub, got behind NYCFC’s defense and played a pass back into the penalty box to Dwyer, who one-timed a shot into the lower left corner.

“I feel like I have enough attacking power,” Pineda said. “It’s whether we are a bit more solid defensively, and we can keep a couple more clean sheets, and then we’re gonna get points for sure.”

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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 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 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

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

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

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

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

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