The team with the most expensive roster in MLS now goes into the two-week forced FIFA break knowing it is just five points from the bottom of the 14-team East table and 10 points from the top. It will host Miami on June 19.
“This loss is massive because we had a good record of unbeaten at home and today we lost that and we need to come back to that when also we play away,” said manager Gonzalo Pineda, who was ejected for throwing his coat onto the ground in the 92nd minute.
Atlanta United’s starting 11 didn’t include Martinez, who made his first game-day roster since April 2. It did include Ronaldo Cisneros at striker with Marcelino Moreno, Luiz Araujo and Thiago Almada in support. Matheus Rossetto and Franco Ibarra were paired in the midfield for the fifth consecutive game. Hernandez replaced the injured Andrew Gutman at left back with Brooks Lennon at right back. The centerbacks were Alan Franco and Alex de John, with Bobby Shuttleworth in goal.
Pineda said on Thursday that team worked hard during the week on improving on the “little things,” such as defending set pieces.
The team didn’t start well. It turned over the ball on its opening kickoff. Pineda noticed.
And then things got worse.
Columbus scored in the first minute. On a set piece. Jonathan Mensah got away from his defender and headed in a Pedro Santos corner kick. It was the eighth goal allowed on a set piece by Atlanta United this season.
“We work a lot on those things,” Pineda said. “It’s not like we don’t work on that. It’s just the attention, the games, in those moments is not happening. And we need to do almost, it feels like we need to do perfect game to really get three points.”
To make it worse, Hernandez was forced off with appeared to be a knee injury that happened during the goal when he appeared to collide with Shuttleworth, who started to come out for the cross but then stopped. Hernandez returned but lasted only a few minutes. He was replaced by Mikey Ambrose, making his season debut, in the sixth minute. Pineda said Hernandez’s knee was swollen and tests are needed. Hernandez was supposed to join Venezuela to play in two friendlies in the next two weeks.
De John came close to tying the game at 1 in the ninth minute when his header was arrowing toward the upper right corner. But Columbus’ Eloy Room dove to his left and pushed the shot over the crossbar.
Because of its lead, Columbus played the rest of the half with all 11 players behind the ball when Atlanta United was in possession and attacking.
Room stopped a close-range shot by Araujo in the 19th minute and another by Lennon in the 30th from almost the same angle.
With Atlanta United pushing forward, Columbus took a 2-0 lead on a counterattack. It started with a Derrick Etienne pass over the top of Atlanta United’s players to Erik Hurtado. He outraced de John to the ball, beat him one-on-one and then put a right-footed shot past Shuttleworth into the lower right corner in the 45th minute.
Atlanta United’s players didn’t stay in the locker room long for halftime. They came back out with five minutes left on the clock.
“I felt like the players felt urgency to just be on the field and trying to get there,” Pineda said.
Pineda didn’t waste time trying to spark the team, bringing on Martinez, who took the captain’s armband, and Campbell in place of Ambrose and Rossetto, who was captain.
Martinez said he didn’t know he was going to play 45 minutes. He said he didn’t feel pain after the game.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, but it’s normal,” he said. “After seven weeks, the first time back to the field and not 100 percent were the most important. And I feel kind of normal.”
The team switched to three centerbacks with Cisneros as the left wingback and Lennon as the right.
Dwyer came on for Cisneros and Emerson Hyndman came on for Ibarra in the 68th minute. Dwyer started at left wingback but moved to a second striker beside Martinez around the 72nd minute.
Dwyer’s goal, assisted by Franco, was followed by Pineda receiving a red card. Unless the team wins an appeal, Pineda will not be allowed to manage the next game against Miami.
“It is not just about today’s game,” Pineda said. “It’s about many, many games where I feel like we’ve been affected. And I reached that limit today because I don’t see consistency.”
Room preserved the tie with a diving effort to push away a Moreno shot from 30 yards that was going into the upper right corner. Room finished with eight saves.
Almada was given a red card after the game for bumping into referee Joe Dickerson.
Atlanta United finished with more shots (22-9), more shots on target (9-3) and expected goals (1.90-0.77).
“I felt that we had a good performance in the sense that we created enough chances to win again, I felt like we did everything there,” Pineda said. “But we don’t pay attention when the score is 0-0. So when we’re not in urgency, when we’re not losing, it seems like we don’t really pay attention to those little details. So we need to re emphasize that in the training sessions. The training session will always play as we train and we will make sure that the next few weeks we’re gonna train very hard on it.”
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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 Crew 2, Atlanta United 1
June 19 vs Miami, 3 p.m., ESPN2
June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC
July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1
July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
August 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC
August 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE
August 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
August 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1
August 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV
August 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1
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
Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE