Atlanta United streak stopped by New England

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan #1 reacts during the match against New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Wednesday July 12, 2023. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Jay Bendlin/Atlanta United

Credit: Jay Bendlin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan #1 reacts during the match against New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Wednesday July 12, 2023. (Photo by Jay Bendlin/Atlanta United)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Atlanta United’s two-game win streak was snapped by a 2-1 loss to New England Wednesday at Gillette Stadium.

The Five Stripes’ defense, which played so well in allowing just one shot on goal in each of its previous two games, was beaten on New England’s first two shots on goal -- taken in the opening nine minutes of the game.

The loss was only the second in the past 11 matches for Atlanta United (9-6-8), which will host Orlando Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Once ahead 2-0, New England played to keep the result, which gave Atlanta United plenty of chances to get back into the match but it couldn’t get past New England’s Djordje Petrovic. After making a formational switch during the match, Atlanta United took 24 shots, second-most this season and tying the franchise high for a road match, putting a season-high 11 on goal, setting a franchise record for a road match. The 11th was a goal by Machop Chol, who hit a spinning shot in stoppage time. New England put six of its 16 shots on goal.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t score in certain good chances that we had at the end and what I take from this is the lesson on how we can switch better from a back five to a back four more organically to be better tactically, but then the reaction from the players was amazing,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said.

Pineda selected the same starting lineup that defeated Montreal 1-0 last week. Miguel Berry started at striker with Thiago Almada and Tyler Wolff as attacking midfielders. Amar Sejdic and Franco Ibarra were the defensive midfielders, Brooks Lennon and Caleb Wiley the wingbacks, JuanJo Purata, Luis Abram and Ronald Hernandez the centerbacks and Brad Guzan was in goal. It marked the third time this season that Pineda picked the same starting lineup for consecutive matches. He said he had no worries about the players feeling fatigue and that he felt continuity would be key.

Atlanta United’s scoreless streak ended in the fourth minute when Matt Polster ripped a shot from 24 yards into the lower left corner. Guzan had no chance to stop the effort, taken from center of the pitch. Polster ran onto a headed clearance by Lennon. The shot flew under a leaping Revs player a few yards from goal.

Atlanta United had a handball claim in the 18-yard box waved away by referee Alex Chilowicz a minute later.

New England made it 2-0 in the ninth minute on an excellent counterattack led by Carles Gil, who played pass through Atlanta United’s centerbacks into space for Giacomo Vrioni to run on to. He rounded Guzan and dinked in a shot.

“We seemed like a little bit on the backfoot from the first minute,” Sejdic said.

Both goals came from moments that Atlanta United was able to avoid in its previous two games.

The first goal started when the Revs switched the point of attack by overloading one side of the field, isolating a wingback, and then switching the point of attack. It’s something they did consistently well in the first 15 minutes. Pineda said they didn’t do a good job on the angle when trying to pressure the cross that Lennon attempted to clear.

The second goal was started when Almada turned over the ball in New England’s defensive third. Gil took the ball, went between Sosa’s legs with a dribble, and then played a perfect pass for his 10th assist.

“I mean, quality of of Carles, you try to limit as much as you can, but he’s a fantastic player,” Pineda said.

New England kept up its pressure and forced a goal-line clearance by Hernandez in the 15th minute.

Atlanta United countered New England’s tactic by using more traditional fullbacks.

“From that point on, as soon as we switch formations, it was a whole different ballgame,” Sejdic said. “I think we created a lot of chances, we’re able to be on the ball more, our positioning was a little bit better.”

Atlanta United continued to attack. A Lennon volley was denied by goalkeeper Petrovic in the 27th minute. Pineda said it was the team’s best chance.

It wasn’t a pretty half for Atlanta United. The defense that was steady in its previous two games allowed 13 shots, six on goal. Atlanta United had eight shots, four on goal.

Pineda subbed in Derrick Etienne for Wolff and Matheus Rossetto for Sosa to start the second half. Pineda said the Sosa sub was planned because he only recently returned to action.

Atlanta United began to overwhelm New England.

Almada played in Etienne to the back post in the 65th minute. Facing only Petrovic, Etienne pushed his shot wide from a tight angle.

Ozzie Alonso came on for Sejdic and Chol for Berry in the 69th minute. Chol was told to play good defense, make runs between the centerbacks, and when they had the ball press them so they couldn’t switch the play.

Chol quickly forced a save with a header. Almada forced another a few minutes later. A Purata header was pushed off the line by Petrovic in the 71st minute.

Pineda made his final sub in the 77th minute, putting on Edwin Mosquera for Wiley. It was Mosquera’s first appearance since returning from his loan to Defensa y Justicia.

Chol missed a chance in the 82nd minute in what was almost a replay of Etienne’s miss earlier.

Chol didn’t miss on his third shot, using the confidence that came from his first two shots. He stole the ball from a New England player and buried the shot, hitting it so hard it seemed like he wanted to put it through Petrovic.

The goal also gave the team confidence.

“I think we’re more so happy about the second half and the way we generated chances and the way we played and I think we’re looking forward to bringing that same kind of decisiveness and chance-creating Saturday,” Chol said.


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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1

March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0

March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1

March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1

April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0

April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1

April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2

April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1

April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1

May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1

May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1

May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0

May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 3

May 27 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

May 31 Atlanta United 3, New England 3

June 7 Atlanta United 0, LAFC 0

June 10 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 1

June 21 Atlanta United 2, New York City 2

June 24 New York Red Bulls 4, Atlanta United 0

July 2 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 0

July 8 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

July 12 at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m.

July 15 vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m., FS1

July 25 at Miami in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

July 29 vs. Cruz Azul in Leagues Cup, 8 p.m.

Aug. 20 at Seattle Sounders, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 26 vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 30 vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 2 at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA