Atlanta United shut out again in loss to New England
Franchise-record winless streak at eight games
Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United
Atlanta United defender George Campbell clearing the ball during the match against the New England Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday July 17, 2021. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)
Choosing to play without healthy striker Josef Martinez, a decision made by manager Gabriel Heinze and supported by Atlanta United’s front office, the team was shut out for the fifth time this season in a 1-0 loss to New England at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.
The defeat stretched its franchise-record winless streak to eight games in front of an announced attendance of 42,517. It was the fourth-smallest crowd in franchise history in non-COVID conditions for a league game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The good news is that Heinze said Martinez is going to return to training with the first team this week.
“Josef will be back, and he will help us go through this moment,” said Heinze, though he again declined to say why Martinez has been training apart from the team.
Saturday’s unfolding script was similar to most of Atlanta United’s games this season. The defense was punished by a lapse in its man-marking system for New England’s (8-3-3) goal in the first half. On offense, the team showed some spunk in the first half but put only two shots on shot on goal, both speculative efforts from outside the penalty box, in the second half in falling to 2-4-7 this season. Atlanta United has scored 13 goals in 13 games and has been shut out four times in the past five games. The team finished with 15 shots, five on goal, to New England’s 13 and five. Atlanta United created 12 chances from its 60.6 possession percentage.
“The scores are not the ones we expected,” Heinze said. “The team needs more from these kind of situations.”
Atlanta United will have two more chances to bounce back in the next week. It will play at Cincinnati on Wednesday and will host Columbus on July 24.
Atlanta United’s starting 11 again featured a 3-4-3 formation, seldom used this season, and was composed of Erick Torres, Machop Chol and Erik Lopez as strikers, Marcelino Moreno, and Amar Sejdic in his debut with the club, as the midfielders, Brooks Lennon and Jake Mulraney as the wingbacks, with centerbacks of Alan Franco, George Campbell, making his first MLS start, and Anton Walkes, with Alec Kann in goal.
In addition to Martinez, the team was without starting goalkeeper Brad Guzan, centerback Miles Robinson and fullback George Bello, who are with the U.S. competing in the Gold Cup; Ezequiel Barco, who is with Argentina preparing for the Olympics; Santiago Sosa, out because of yellow-card accumulation; and Emerson Hyndman, Mo Adams and Franco Ibarra because of injuries.
The first highlight came at the start of the seventh minute when the supporters section did a “Oh, Josef Martinez” chant that lasted almost a minute. Martinez wears No. 7.
Atlanta United’s first shot on goal came in the 13th minute and was struck by Torres, right at backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who is in for Matt Turner, who also is with the U.S. team.
More followed a few seconds later with a long blast that Knighton pushed over the crossbar.
New England struck first in the 18th minute on a goal by Gustavo Bou, who took advantage of a lapse in Atlanta United’s man-marking system. A cross was misplayed by Adam Buksa, who ended up almost sitting on the ball, which drew two defenders toward him. He quickly got up and passed it to his left to Bou, who had made a late run into the box that wasn’t tracked by Sejdic. Bou took a touch and then shot it. It took a deflection before going into the goal.
Chol scored what appeared to be the tying goal in the 20th minute, but it was ruled away because he was marginally offside.
Heinze subbed in Jackson Conway, who scored last week as a sub, for Torres in the 58th minute. Tyler Wolff was brought on for Lopez in the 77th minute.
The “Oh, Josef Martinez” chant, more from hope or desperation, went out again in the 88th minute.
Atlanta United’s last chance to tie the score came on a corner kick in stoppage time. The effort easily was cleared down the field.
Boos echoed around the stadium when the final whistle blew. The last time the team went through a winless stretch similar to this, which was last year in the MLS tournament in Orlando, manager Frank de Boer was let go. Heinze said he’s not worried about his job. And he said he saw a lot of positives from a group that finished with three Homegrown signings on the field.
“It’s a competitive team,” he said. “They tried to play. We have a lot of courage when we are on the field. With all the new players, we don’t lose this idea, this mentality. The work they are putting in, we need to be thankful.”