Atlanta United’s offense again fails to ignite

Atlanta United's Ezequiel Barco (8) walks away after a called fouled on D.C. United defender Chris Odoi-Atsem (3) during the first half of 2-1 loss Saturday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Atlanta United's Ezequiel Barco (8) walks away after a called fouled on D.C. United defender Chris Odoi-Atsem (3) during the first half of 2-1 loss Saturday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Atlanta United faced a must-win game against arguably the worst team in MLS.

The Five Stripes fielded arguably their strongest lineup, one with the potential to score multiple goals.

Instead, as has been the case most of the season, the offense didn’t click and the defense switched off at the worst times.

Put it together and Atlanta United was beaten 2-1 by D.C. United Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It was the team’s second consecutive winning goal allowed in the final minutes. It was yet another lackluster effort on offense as the team’s winless streak reached five games and its playoff hopes just about extinguished. It has three games remaining and is in 12th place. The top 10 teams will advance to the postseason.

“I think the positions that the team got into, there should have probably been more production,” interim manager Stephen Glass said. “More shots, more quality on crosses, better final passes. When you only score goal with that group of players, and the goalkeeper hasn’t been hugely tested, I don’t think you can be satisfied with your night’s work. That’s the whole group. Likewise, you can’t be satisfied with letting in two cheap goals, that goes for the whole group as well. It’s not to single out individuals, things should be better at both ends of the pitch collectively tonight.”

While Glass pointed to the failings of the whole team, had the offense created anything before it was too late Atlanta United wouldn’t have been in the position of trying to score a tying goal in the final 13 minutes, and then having to do so again in the final three minutes.

The starting lineup featured Designated Players Ezequiel Barco and Marcelino Moreno, starting together for the first time. The striker was Erick Torres, who on Thursday expressed confidence that his first goal was coming. The midfield included Matheus Rossetto, whose quality has yet to be determined. The fullback were George Bello and Brooks Lennon, tireless workers up and down the wings.

D.C. United forward Gelmin Rivas (left) celebrates after scoring a goal during the second half against Atlanta United Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. D.C. United won 2-1. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
D.C. United forward Gelmin Rivas (left) celebrates after scoring a goal during the second half against Atlanta United Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. D.C. United won 2-1. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

All Atlanta United needed to do was score early and it seemed evident that D.C. United would capitulate as it has done most of the season. Lennon said he thought that D.C. United’s players thought they were going to lose, and Atlanta United’s players thought they were going to win.

But you can’t win if you don’t score and Atlanta United failed to threaten often enough. It’s first real scoring threat came near the end of the first half on a half-volley by Moreno. It’s next came on a deflected shot by Moreno so not much credit should be given. It’s next came on Jon Gallagher’s diving header that tied the game in the 89th minute.

For all of Atlanta United’s possession (57%) and stated belief that it controlled the game, D.C. United created more scoring chances (7-6). Barco, needing to lead the offense, created just one chance and put just one shot on target. Moreno created one chance while putting three shots on target. Rossetto created one chance.

The team fell to 0-11-2 when it doesn’t score first. It is 5-0-0 when it scores first.

“It’s very tense at the moment when we play," Gallagher said. "I feel like, as you said, sometimes we need a kick in the backside before we get going. I really don’t know the answer to it, but it’s definitely something that has carried through this whole season. If you look at the games that we’ve won, we’ve been on the front foot from the start and we’ve scored the first goal. I don’t know how we get that every game, but it’s more of a mentality thing if I’m being honest.”

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Atlanta United coming games

Wednesday at Orlando (6-2-4), 7:30 p.m., FS1

Nov. 1 vs. Cincinnati (3-6-3), 7 p.m., FSSE

Nov. 8 at Columbus (8-1-3), 3:30 p.m., FSSE

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