Atlanta United shut out by L.A. Galaxy

Atlanta United's George Campbell dribbles the ball during the first half of the match against the L.A. Galaxy on Sunday night in Carson, Calif. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United's George Campbell dribbles the ball during the first half of the match against the L.A. Galaxy on Sunday night in Carson, Calif. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda believed his team “was back” to playing like a team again.

Turns out, Atlanta United is back to doing many of the things that have exasperated many of its supporters and were on display in Sunday night’s 2-0 loss to the L.A. Galaxy in Carson, Calif.

The team (6-8-7) gave up an early goal thanks to a combination of individual errors, which has been an issue all season. The offense never found a gear in the first half, which has also been a consistent problem. It showed energy at different times in the second half but couldn’t turn that work into a goal, so it was shut out for the fifth time. It put three shots on goal against the Galaxy and created eight chances against a defense that had given up nine goals in its previous three games.

As a result, the team fell to 1-7-2 on the road and is four points behind Cincinnati for the seventh and final playoff spot with four teams between it and the red postseason line. After picking up four points from its past two matches, the team has won just one of its past seven games and two of its past 11. It will play at Chicago next week.

During his postgame interview, Pineda disagreed that the team made the same types of mistakes it has been making. But as he answered questions he mentioned several things that he has mentioned after past games: mentality, not understanding visual cues, lack of aggressiveness, etc.

“I felt that the first half, we couldn’t really control the game in the way we wanted,” he said. “The second half was much better. We were pushing, we were trying to get into those areas. And I felt that we weren’t unlucky in the final third.”

Pineda selected the same starting 11 as in the recent draw with Orlando. Ronaldo Cisneros started in place of Josef Martinez at striker for the third consecutive game. Luiz Araujo and Marcelino Moreno were on the wings with Amar Sejdic and Matheus Rossetto in the midfield. Caleb Wiley and Aiden McFadden were the wingbacks, with JuanJo Purata, George Campbell and Alan Franco as the centerbacks. Rocco Rios Novo started in goal. Pineda said he didn’t start Thiago Almada, who impacted the second half of the Orlando game, because when playing with three centerbacks there are only three spots at the top of the formation and he chose Moreno, Cisneros and Araujo. He said he will review the game film to see if Almada should start.

Atlanta United got off to a nightmare start, falling behind 1-0 in the seventh minute on a goal by Kevin Cabral. Rios Novo saved the first shot from Javier Hernandez but couldn’t gather the hard-hit shot from close range. Cabral pounced on the loose ball and put it in just a few feet from goal. The sequence started with Rios Novo playing the ball toward midfield, where a Galaxy player won the aerial dual. Rossetto and Moreno were near the destination of the free kick, but neither moved to try to win the header. With Atlanta United’s players pushed up the field, the Galaxy had a numerical advantage on its counterattack. It was the second consecutive game that Atlanta United gave up a goal early after Orlando scored in the 10th minute last week and then sat deep defensively, which stymied the offense. Atlanta United has allowed eight goals in the first 15 minutes of games. That total is tied for most in the league.

“They scored an early goal, and that proved difficult for us,” Rossetto said.

Atlanta United had a chance to tie the game in the 16th minute, but Cisneros was stopped by L.A. Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond. On the subsequent corner, Moreno, left wide open at the back post on a corner kick, couldn’t put a header on goal. Cisneros tried to redirect the errant shot but put it across the end line for a goal kick.

The Galaxy had two more good chances in the first half but couldn’t take advantage of either, one a miss by Cabral from close range in front of an empty goal.

Atlanta United created just two scoring chances in the first half. Both were by Sejdic.

Pineda said his team struggled to control the midfield because the Galaxy surprised them by using a 4-3-3 formation instead of the 4-4-2 it had been using in previous games.

“What you saw in the first half wasn’t the plan,” Pineda said.

Later during his interview, Pineda said “We were not, since the very beginning, we were not really into the game. But tactics, tactics matter. So I felt like it was a little bit of tactics, a little bit of the mentality.”

Pineda didn’t waste time, putting on Martinez and Almada to start the second half in place of Sejdic and McFadden and switching to a back four to try to balance the midfield. The moves were similar to what Pineda did later in the second half against Orlando. It worked then because Almada moved the ball quickly.

The offense started the half well. Araujo put a chip over the goal in the opening minutes after good work by Cisneros.

Atlanta United came within inches of the tying goal in the 56th minute when Araujo played a cross across the mouth of the goal. Purata stretched to try to reach the pass, but the ball eluded him.

Dom Dwyer came on for Cisneros in the 59th minute.

Santiago Sosa came on for Moreno in the 70th minute as Pineda continued to try to find a combination that could score the tying goal. Machop Chol came on for Purata in the 79th minute.

Martinez had a chance near the 85th minute but couldn’t capitalize.

Dejan Joveljic ended the game with a goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

“We’re creating a lot of chances, just probably we’re not as clinical as we should be,” Pineda said. “But we will continue with trying to create more chances.”

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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

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

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