Kanye West even was among the 67,507 announced attendance in the first full-capacity game for the team at Mercedes-Benz Stadium since March 7, 2020 against Cincinnati, which was the week before COVID-19 shut down everything.
But the final result, the important matter at hand, couldn’t be altered by the King or Yeezy, as Martinez and West are known.
Despite taking 19 shots, putting five on goal, the team was shut out in a 1-0 loss to the Crew. It now has scored 14 goals in 15 games and been shut out six times in MLS games.
“To have that many shots and not have anything to fall, I’m gutted for them,” Atlanta United interim manager Rob Valentino said. “I think they deserved something from that game. I think we deserved to win the game.”
Atlanta United’s (2-5-8) winless streak is at 10 games, and the gap between it and the playoff line could reach as many as seven points after Sunday’s games are finished.
Valentino’s starting 11 was punctuated by the addition of Martinez, making his first start since the end of May, and Mattheus Rossetto, making his first start this season, with Marcelino Moreno, Machop Chol, Jake Mulraney, Santiago Sosa, Brooks Lennon, Ronald Hernandez, Anton Walkes, Alan Franco and Alec Kann.
Columbus’ goal came on a set-piece that Atlanta United had studied during the week.
It came in the 64th minute on a headed goal by centerback Jonathan Mensah. Marlon Hairston ran to the front post on a corner kick and headed the ball behind him and back across the goal to Mensah at the back post. He was one of two Crew players at the back post who were waiting on the ball.
“It’s really gut-wrenching to concede that way because he studied that,” Lennon said.
Walkes said he couldn’t get into a position close enough to stop the ball from going in.
“We knew they were going to do it,” he said. “We just have to find a way to do better because it ultimately cost us the game.”
While that was the obvious low, the club produced several highs, continuing its slow march to try to be an attacking club in the mold of its form in 2017, ‘18 and ‘19.
Atlanta United wasted its first good chance when Mulraney, unmarked and with time, failed to put a shot on goal from 18 yards in the second minute. The shot came after good work by Martinez, who won a header and passed the ball to Chol. He passed the ball to Hernandez sprinting to his right. He cut back to his left and passed it to Martinez, who moved it to his right to Mulraney.
Mulraney left the game with a foot injury in the 32nd minute. Valentino said he hopes he will be OK when the team returns to training Monday. Mulraney was replaced by Erik Lopez. Atlanta United already was without injured players Emerson Hyndman, Mo Adams and Franco Ibarra. Also missing because of international call-ups were goalkeeper Brad Guzan, centerback Miles Robinson, fullback George Bello and midfielder Ezequiel Barco.
Lopez was denied a goal in the 36th minute in a one-on-one situation by Columbus goalkeeper Eloy Room. Lopez was put in on the back post of the goal because of a great diagonal pass by Moreno that split Columbus’ centerbacks.
Lopez forced another save just before halftime with a hard shot from close range.
Moreno wasted Atlanta United’s first good scoring chance in the 53rd minute when he put a weak shot from 18 yards right at Room.
Valentino put more firepower on the field with the additions of Erick Torres and Jurgen Damm. Martinez told him that he was not coming out of the game when Valentino approached him during a short break.
Still, no goals. And more points lost heading into Friday’s game at Orlando.
The team finished with 15 chances created, which tied a season high set June 20 against Philadelphia, and was a significant increase over its season average of 10 per game.
“Sometimes in this game and this level, the margin of chance is so small,” Valentino said. “You create the chances that are there. It’s not because they don’t want to. You can tell by the intent of the players. They are getting into the right areas.”
Southern Fried Soccer
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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule
April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0
April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1
May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1
May 9 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 1,
May 15 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0
May 23 Atlanta United 1, Seattle 1
May 29 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2
June 20 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2
June 23 NYCFC 1, Atlanta United 0
June 27 Atlanta United 0, New York Red Bulls 0
July 3 Chicago 3, Atlanta United 0
July 8 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2
July 17 New England 1, Atlanta United 0
July 21 Atlanta United 1, Cincinnati 1
July 24 vs. Columbus, 3:30 p.m., ABC
July 30 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ESPN
Aug. 4 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 7 at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 15 vs. LAFC, 4 p.m. ESPN
Aug. 18 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 21 at D.C. United, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 28 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., Univision
Sept. 10 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1
Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Sept. 18 vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m., Univision
Sept. 25 at Philadelphia,3:30 p.m., Univision
Sept. 29 vs. Inter Miami, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Oct. 2 at Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE
Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE