COLUMBUS, Ohio — Attitude and application are two things Atlanta United players said need to be improved after suffering the worst loss in franchise history, 6-1 at Columbus on Saturday.
The Five Stripes came in playing like one of the best teams in MLS. Atlanta United was tied for most goals scored and had the best goal difference.
But that team looked nothing like the team that played at Lower.com Field on a cold night in Ohio. It was second to most loose balls. It looked disjointed. Finally, it looked like it had nothing left to give after giving up two quick goals in the opening minutes of the second half. It eventually suffered the ignominy of giving up the most goals in franchise history.
“This wasn’t the Atlanta United that we’ve seen over the last few months,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said.
As captain, Guzan said he spoke to his teammates after the game and told them that as good as they felt about themselves last week in demolishing Portland 5-1, that’s how quickly things can turn around when the team doesn’t apply itself.
Atlanta United was outshot (15-2), had fewer shots on target (6-1) and was outcreated (11-1). None of Atlanta United’s starting front three, Luiz Araujo, Miguel Berry or Caleb Wiley, put a shot on goal. Araujo took the only shot by the three. It was blocked. Brooks Lennon scored the only goal. He led the team with 0.04 expected goals total.
Guzan said he will watch his teammates when they resume training ahead of the next game against Red Bulls at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“It’s the way you approach a game,” he said. “It’s how you step on the field. It’s how you compete. It’s all the things that we’ve talked about all preseason, all the beginning of the year.”
That’s the application part of bouncing back.
Berry talked about needing to improve attitudes.
“To concede one happens, OK, but 3, 4, 5, 6 is unacceptable,” he said. “It’s unacceptable from the front to the back. We’re going to have to come and compete this week. And because jobs are on the line, we can’t compete like that in the MLS and expect to win games. I think everyone needs to look in the mirror.”
Manager Gonzalo Pineda said he will look for intensity, which he said wasn’t there like it was in the season’s first four games.
The team was losing only 1-0 at halftime despite being outplayed. But it gave up two goals in four minutes early in the second half.
The team should be helped by the return of three starters, striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, attacking midfielder Thiago Almada and centerback Miles Robinson, who missed the Columbus game because they were with their national teams.
“We need just to come back to who we are to what we were doing very well in the first couple of games and come back stronger,” Pineda 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 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.
April 8 at New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.
April 15 at Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m.
April 23 vs. Chicago Fire FC, 4:30 p.m., FS1
April 29 at Nashville SC, 1:30 p.m., Fox
May 6 at Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.
May 13 vs. Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m.
May 17 vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m.
May 20 at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m.
May 27 at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m.
May 31 vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m., FS1
June 3 at Los Angeles FC, 10:30 p.m.
June 10 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.
June 21 vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.
June 24 at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.
July 2 vs. Philadelphia Union, 4 p.m., Fox
July 8 at CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
July 12 at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m.
July 15 vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m., FS1
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
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Credit: Jason Getz/AJC