Not that it couldn’t have felt worse for Atlanta United, but the Red Bulls had scored just 13 goals in their previous 18 games. They hadn’t scored more than two in a match.
Atlanta United had difficulty playing through the Red Bulls’ customary pressure. Despite the return of Giorgos Giakoumakis and Thiago Almada to the starting lineup, Atlanta United put just one shot on goal in the first half. It finished with three. Atlanta United was shut out for the second time. Even when Atlanta United put itself into good positions, a player simply couldn’t get the shot off because the ball would get stuck between his feet or the shot would be poor.
Manager Gonzalo Pineda said the Red Bulls didn’t do anything that wasn’t expected. The difference was the Red Bulls were better when they needed to be. Atlanta United wasn’t.
“I felt that they were better in important moments, in those transition moments,” he said.
Atlanta United fell to 1-4-5 on the road. It dropped to sixth place in the East. It will host Philadelphia on July 2.
Pineda made four changes from the lineup that drew with New York City FC 2-2 on Wednesday. As expected, in came Giakoumakis and Almada. Centerback Luis Abram, making his second start, and midfielder Matheus Rossetto also were selected. They joined holdover Tyler Wolff and Caleb Wiley on the wings, Brooks Lennon and Andrew Gutman as the fullbacks, Franco Ibarra as defensive midfielder, JuanJo Purata as centerback and Brad Guzan as goalkeeper.
The Red Bulls came out in a 4-4-2 formation designed to clog the middle and make it hard for Almada to influence the game.
Atlanta United countered by trying to play over the Red Bulls’ lines with long passes.
Neither team could consistently create anything in attack. Atlanta United had the game’s only shot on goal through the first 30 minutes. It was taken by Wiley and saved in the fifth minute.
But then Atlanta United made a mistake, one it has made several times this season.
Daniel Edelman gave the the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute when he blasted a shot past Guzan’s near post. The play started with a throw-in. The throw was sent high over Gutman and into space for Edelman to run onto. Ibarra didn’t slide over quickly enough to pressure Edelman once he received the ball in the 18-yard box. Atlanta United has had a bad habit this season of not being ready when play restarts. It was the Red Bulls’ first shot on goal.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Guzan said about the team switching off mentally. “It’s too easy for teams in terms of the opportunities that they get and the chances that we end up giving away. We’re going to get punished every day when we give away the chances that we give away.”
The Red Bulls increased their lead to 2-0 with a goal by Cristian Casseres in the 45th minute. New York forced a turnover on an attempted pass by Purata to Ibarra, who ducked as the ball arrived. It bounced off one Red Bulls player. It eventually came to Casseres near the top of the 18-yard box, who moved in one-on-one with Guzan. It was the Red Bulls’ second shot on goal.
“Goals change games and we switched off, goals in the back of the net, second one before half and you never want to concede right before the end of the first half,” Guzan said.
Both teams created two chances in the first half.
Pineda didn’t wait long to try spark his team, putting in Machop Chol and Amar Sejdic for Ibarra and Wolff in the 54th minute. Chol got into two good positions. His cross was blocked on the first. His shot, the team’s second in the match, was wide on the second.
Noah Cobb and Miguel Berry came on in the 75th minute for Abram, who was cramping, and Rossetto. Berry played as a second striker, which isn’t something that Pineda has typically done.
The Red Bulls’ third goal came in the 78th minute on a Frankie Amaya shot that deflected off Gutman. Amaya also was credited with the fourth in the 90th minute.
Pineda said all of the goals came from individual mistakes. He said they would be addressed within the locker room.
Wiley said he could see from the opening minute that the team didn’t come with an attitude to counter the Red Bulls’ aggressiveness with their own. He said it was surprising.
“Yes, we created some chances,” he said. “And we were a threat in moments of the game. But I thought that we didn’t want it. They’re a team that you have to come out on the front foot and be ready to go to war. And I just don’t think that we were wanting that tonight.”
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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 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
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