Atlanta United shuts out Orlando

Atlanta United forward Saba Lobjanidze #9 celebrates after scoring a goal during the match against Orlando City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday March 17, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United forward Saba Lobjanidze #9 celebrates after scoring a goal during the match against Orlando City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday March 17, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Goals from Saba Lobjanidze and Giorgos Giakoumakis lifted Atlanta United to a 2-0 victory against Orlando on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Though Atlanta United’s performance was sloppy the majority of the game, it was Atlanta United’s (2-1-0) second consecutive victory in its second home match. It came in front of an announced attendance of 42,631.

Brad Guzan secured his first shutout this season and eighth against Orlando, his most against any team, by saving four shots. It was Atlanta United’s first shutout since Aug. 26 last year when it defeated Nashville 4-0.

“Is that a good defensive effort? Yeah, again, I don’t think Orlando was at their best,” Guzan said. “We need to be honest with ourselves that we can be better for sure.”

Giakoumakis’ goal was his fourth this season, tying him for the league lead. He will be one of several Atlanta United players who will miss next week’s match at Toronto because they were called up earlier in the week by their respective national teams.

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said he thought the team played well in its low block. It limited Orlando to one big chance, which came late. But he said it could be much better when it had the ball in the final third.

“We need to do a couple more, a couple things better, especially on the ball, like we weren’t as sharp, it was too often in areas where we normally don’t lose the ball,” he said. “And then in the final third, we work a lot on the decision making.”

Pineda selected the same lineup from the previous two matches. Giakoumakis started at striker with Lobjanidze and Xande Silva on the wings, Thiago Almada, Tristan Muyumba and Bartosz Slisz in the midfielder, Brooks Lennon and Caleb Wiley were the fullbacks, Stian Gregersen and Derrick Williams were the centerbacks, and Guzan in goal.

Orlando was without starting midfielders Cesar Araujo (injury) and Wilder Cartagena (red card). The Lions’ lineup was highlighted by striker Duncan McGuire and midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro.

Atlanta United took a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute on a goal from Lobjanidze, whose scuffed shot eluded Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. Lobjanidze was played into space down the right by Giakoumakis, who after using his shoulder to push away an Orlando defender, hit a pass with the outside of his right foot across and down the field. The pass had just enough curl away from Gallese that he couldn’t come out to try to intercept it. It was Lobjanidze’s first goal and Giakoumakis’ second assist this season. It came on Atlanta United’s first shot on goal in the match.

“He was fighting for the ball and he was stuck so I knew he was giving me the pass, so I was running there,” Lobjanidze said.

Atlanta United’s issues with its decisions in the final third began to occur.

Lobjanidze hit a pass over Orlando’s defenders into space for Almada to run into in the 26th minute. He moved in on goal and attempted to pass to Giakoumakis, but it was deflected yards from goal by a retreating Orlando defender.

Gallese saved two shots in the 46th minute just before they crossed the line. The first was a header by Gregersen, which Gallese pushed out of the goal and to Silva, whose header he also punched away just before it crossed the line.

Atlanta United finished the first half with eight shots, four on goal, to Orlando’s five and three.

It was a half in which either team could either consider itself unlucky that it didn’t have more goals, or lucky that the opponent hadn’t scored more.

Orlando kept up its pressure in the second half, creating several turnovers from which it attacked Atlanta United’s goal. One attack resulted in a cross that flew through the mouth of Atlanta United’s goal in the opening minutes.

Guzan spent several minutes waving to the team around the 60th minute to signal something. That became clear in the 64th minute when he sat down on the turf and was subsequently examined by trainers. He got back up after a few seconds of review and stayed in the match. He said he felt a twinge in his hamstring.

Pineda subbed on Jay Fortune, a midfielder, for Silva, a winger in the 69th minute. Almada moved to the left wing.

Giakoumakis scored in the 70th minute with a powerful, one-timed shot that beat Gallese to the near post, bounced off the crossbar and in. It was assisted by Lennon, his second this season.

Pineda put more defense on the field by putting in Luis Abram for Muyumba in the 77th minute and switching the back from line two centerbacks to three.

Jamal Thiare, Edwin Mosquera and Ronald Hernandez came on for Giakoumakis, Lobjandize and Williams in the 85th minute.

Atlanta United finished with 11 shots, six on goal. Orlando had 11 and four.

“Maybe it was more grinding and fighting and competing and never giving up,” Pineda said. “So a positive, but you have the reminder that we need to do better.”

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

March 23 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

March 31 vs. Chicago, 3:30 p.m., FOX

April 6 at NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

April 14 vs. Philadelphia, 2:30 p.m., FOX

April 20 vs. Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

April 27 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.

May 4 vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.

May 11 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

May 15 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

May 18 at Nashville, 1:30 p.m.

May 25 vs. LAFC, 7:30 p.m.

May 29 at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

June 2 vs Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FOX

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.