Atlanta United shut out by Colorado for first loss

Colorado Rapids' Jonathan Lewis, right, kicks the ball as Atlanta United's Miles Robinson defends during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Commerce City, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Colorado Rapids' Jonathan Lewis, right, kicks the ball as Atlanta United's Miles Robinson defends during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Commerce City, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Credit: AP

A depleted Atlanta United lost its first game this MLS season, 3-0, at Colorado on Saturday.

The Five Stripes, missing as many as six starters for various reasons, were punished when they made two clear defensive mistakes. Its offense, so effective on the break last week, created just two quality chances in the cold and thin air of Commerce City, Colo. Missing late runs behind the defense and insightful passes, Atlanta United finished with an expected goals total of 0.92 to Colorado’s 1.93.

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The afternoon started roughly when the team announced that midfielder Ozzie Alonso was being held out after consulting with its team cardiologist. Alonso, signed as a free agent in the offseason, was a key player in last week’s season-opening 3-1 win against Sporting KC. Also missing were midfielders Emerson Hyndman (ACL recovery), Santiago Sosa and Franco Ibarra (green cards), Jake Mulraney (injury), and wingers Thiago Almada (visa) and Luiz Araujo (hamstring).

Atlanta United’s starting 11 was composed of striker Josef Martinez, wingers Tyler Wolff and Brooks Lennon, in for Araujo, fullbacks Ronald Hernandez and Andrew Gutman, midfielder Amar Sejdic, Matheus Rossetto and George Campbell, filling in for Alonso, centerbacks Miles Robinson and Alan Franco, and goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Campbell didn’t get to train at the spot before he started.

Despite the conditions and a field that was bumpy, spotty and not good for soccer, Atlanta United played well in the first 20-25 minutes. The game plan, according to manager Gonzalo Pineda, was to overload the middle of the formation to allow runners behind Colorado’s line.

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta United's Alan Franco, left, vies for control of the ball with Colorado Rapids' Jonathan Lewis during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Commerce City, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Credit: AP

Atlanta United's Alan Franco, left, vies for control of the ball with Colorado Rapids' Jonathan Lewis during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Commerce City, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta United's Alan Franco, left, vies for control of the ball with Colorado Rapids' Jonathan Lewis during the first half of an MLS soccer match Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Commerce City, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta United had a good chance in the eighth minute but a shot by Wolff, played in on goal by Campbell, was stopped by the right leg of Colorado goalkeeper William Yarbrough.

“I think you saw the game plan there the first 30-35 minutes I was very happy with the way we were moving the ball around,” Pineda said. “I think that we were not seeing a couple movements to get in between the lines. And then again, kudos to Colorado. They were very aggressive. They were always on the back of our players, chasing, pressing and they were doing a good job in there.”

But Colorado struck first with Diego Rubio hitting a header from a few yards away in the 33rd minute. Rubio outjumped Franco to score his team’s first goal this season and first against Atlanta United in their fourth meeting. It was also Colorado’s first shot on goal.

“He (Franco) was marking probably correctly but he (Rubio) was on his back,” Pineda said. “And then he couldn’t get actually any part of the cross.”

Colorado failed to take advantage of another good chance five minutes later when Franco let Jonathan Lewis run by to reach a cross, but his shot went wide from just a few yards from goal.

Colorado missed another opportunity just before halftime when Atlanta United’s defenders broke up field following a cleared corner. The issue is Colorado recovered the ball first and put a cross into the box where there were four unmarked teammates. The header went wide.

Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

Martinez missed from close range just before halftime when he couldn’t control a good cross from Gutman.

Atlanta United fell behind 2-0 in the 48th minute when Lewis again got past Franco and Hernandez, this time to volley in a cross from close range.

“We just switched off for a couple of minutes and they killed us,” Gutman said.

Campbell came close to cutting Atlanta United’s deficit to 2-1 with a header in the 52nd minute but Yarbrough pushed the shot over the crossbar.

Marcelino Moreno and Caleb Wiley came on for Lennon and Campbell in the 64th minute. Wolff moved from left wing to right with Wiley moving into the left. Moreno came on to play attacking midfielder.

With just two shots on goal through the first 72 minutes, Pineda put on Dom Dwyer, who scored last week’s second goal, in place of Sejdic. Wolff moved into central midfield because of that sub.

Things got worse in the 85th minute when Robinson picked up a second yellow card, this time for pushing down Rubio as they chased a loose ball, and was forced to leave, reducing Atlanta United to 10 players. The first came when Robinson wasted time in the first half. He will now be forced to miss next week’s game against Charlotte at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Colorado capitalized two minutes later with a goal by Andre Shinyashiki, who ran right through the middle of Atlanta United’s defense.

“I think what we’re building here and what we’re capable of doing, it didn’t represent what the result was tonight so just kind of have to learn from it and kind of take it forward,” Sejdic 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 vs. Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FS1

March 19 vs. Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 2 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 10 at Charlotte, 1:30 p.m., ABC, ESPN Deportes

April 16 vs. Cincinnati, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 24 at Miami, 1 p.m., ESPN

April 30 at Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 7 vs. Chicago, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 15 vs. New England, 2 p.m., ESPN

May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX

May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs Miami, 4 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

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

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, 6 p.m., FS1

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

August 31 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

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