Atlanta United upset with officiating in loss to Union

Team’s tendency to allow easy goals keeps happening, too
Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada #8 dribbles the ball during the first half of the match against Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park in Philadelphia, United States on Wednesday August 31, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada #8 dribbles the ball during the first half of the match against Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park in Philadelphia, United States on Wednesday August 31, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United allowed three soft goals and as a result lost 4-1 at Philadelphia on Wednesday at Subaru Park in Chester, Pa.

The Five Stripes had opportunities, particularly in the first half, to hang with the best team in the East and strengthen their playoff chances. But Atlanta United allowed two poor goals in the first 45 minutes, followed by another in the second half, to remain stuck on one win in 14 away matches this season. Two of the three goals can be argued were the responsibility of goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo.

Atlanta United (8-11-9), which started the day three points from sixth in the East, will try to stay in the running for one of the seven playoff spots when it plays at Portland on Sunday. It has six games remaining.

As it typically has done, Atlanta United couldn’t even argue that it dominated the game but was unfortunate. Philadelphia took more shots (22-17), put more shots on goal (8-5) and had a higher expected goals total (3.1-1.6). Atlanta United put just one shot on goal in the second half.

“I think I have to control my emotions in this moment because the guy making the calls tonight, the referee (Lukasz Szpala). I’m very upset and have to control a little bit my emotions because I felt that they had a big impact in today’s game,” Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said.

Pineda was referring specifically to a play early in the first half when Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake slammed into Luiz Araujo outside the penalty box with no foul called. Later in the half, Ronaldo Cisneros was fouled, according to Pineda. But nothing was called. Philadelphia soon scored.

Pineda didn’t make too many tweaks to the starting lineup from last week’s win against D.C. United. Cisneros started at striker with Thiago Almada and Araujo in support. Franco Ibarra replaced Amar Sejdic as the central midfielder with Santiago Sosa for the seventh consecutive game at defensive midfielder. Caleb Wiley and Brooks Lennon were the wingbacks with JuanJo Purata, Alan Franco and Andrew Gutman as the three centerbacks. Rios Novo started in goal.

Pineda wanted this team to attack quickly once it broke through the Union’s press and diamond midfield. Defensively, after the D.C. United victory, Pineda said he was trying to find a balance for the team to try to help it stop leaking “soft” goals.

One part of the plan worked.

Atlanta United got off to a positive start, creating several chances. But Philadelphia grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute on a goal by Julian Carranza. He took a shot from 20 yards that went through a crowd before going across the 18-yard box and into the lower left corner. It was a broken play and Atlanta United could consider itself unlucky.

Atlanta United answered six minutes later when Gutman, joining the attack from his position as a centerback, was the first to react to a shot by Almada that Andre Blake couldn’t control. Gutman dove in to hit the loose ball with his head from five yards away for his third goal this season.

Lennon cleared a Daniel Gazdag shot off the goal line in the 39th minute to keep the game tied at 1. The sequence started as a counterattack in which two Union players appeared to be offside.

Philadelphia took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Mikael Uhre, who was unmarked at the back post on a corner kick. The shot deflected off a diving Sosa in the third minute of first-half stoppage time. It was the 12th goal from a set piece allowed by Atlanta United this season.

“I’m very upset at that (officiating) because I felt that we did a great job in the first half,” Pineda said. “We didn’t deserve to be losing at halftime and after that, probably the second half wasn’t great, but I felt that the first half we should have been going in winning.”

Pineda put on Josef Martinez for Cisneros in the 62nd minute, hoping he could duplicate what he did against D.C. United when he scored two minutes after coming into the game.

Philadelphia increased its lead to 3-1 on yet another soft goal allowed by the Five Stripes. A cross came in. Rios Novo came out and didn’t touch the ball, instead colliding with Lennon and a Union player. The ball bounced to Gazdag in front of an empty goal in the 67th minute.

“We are, again, conceding goals where you know, a little miscommunication we don’t fix,” Pineda said. “And then the third goal is a good example of that and then we allow them from nothing to score.”

Philadelphia’s Cory Burke put a header off the crossbar in the 77th minute on another Union free kick.

The easy goals continued in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time when Nathan Harriel was the first to react to a loose ball in the box.

“I don’t want to speak for everyone else, but I feel like sometimes we just mentally aren’t strong enough to push through those tough moments,” Gutman said.

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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 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0

August 6 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 1

August 13 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

August 17 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

August 21 Atlanta United 2, Columbus 2

August 28 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

August 31 Philadelphia 4, Atlanta United 1

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


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