Atlanta United’s offense must regroup and quickly

Credit: MLS

Atlanta United suffered its first loss in MLS play this season and second this week in a 2-1 loss at New England.

Credit: MLS

Atlanta United striker Erick Torres asked for patience with the team’s offense following Saturday’s 2-1 loss at New England.

The lone goal came for a penalty kick won and converted by Marcelino Moreno in the 43rd minute. It marked the fifth time in six games that the Five Stripes have scored one or fewer goals.

“We know it’s something that we are missing,” he said. “It’s not a secret that the team needs to score more goals. We are working on attacking through the wings, through the center, all week during training. I think we have been creating chances. We just haven’t been able to capitalize on them.”

Atlanta United created eight chances against the Revs. Other than the penalty, its best chance was wasted in the second half because Ezequiel Barco chose to take an extra dribble instead of one-timing a shot in a three-on-two situation.

It’s those types of decisions, not exclusive to Barco, that are a part of why the team isn’t scoring at the clip expected when manager Gabriel Heinze and several new players added with the goal of re-establishing Atlanta United has an aggressive, high-scoring team. In fact, of the six goals it has scored this season, two are from penalty kicks.

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan (left) blocks shot on goal as defender Anton Walkes (4) holds off the attack of New England forward Adam Buska (9) during their match Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (MLS)
Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan (left) blocks shot on goal as defender Anton Walkes (4) holds off the attack of New England forward Adam Buska (9) during their match Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (MLS)

Credit: MLS

Credit: MLS

There is urgency because the team must score at least three on Tuesday in the second leg of its Champions League series to have a chance to advance to the semifinals for the first time in three attempts. There is this: the offense looked the best it has all season in the first half against Philadelphia. It may have coincided with Heinze rolling out what appeared to be his strongest attacking squad. But the team failed to score, mostly because of the heroics of Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake.

Against New England, the Five Stripes featured four changes to the starting lineup with Josef Martinez, Ezequiel Barco, George Bello and Miles Robinson not in the staring 11. Also missing Saturday were the defense-unlocking dynamic runs; the aggressiveness with splitting lines with passes; and the urgency to press and close down the opponent when it had the ball that was shown against the Union.

To be fair to the team, none of those who competed in the Champions League during the week played well on Saturday. Atlanta United and Portland were the only two of the four to score. None won. Toronto is off. It’s the second consecutive post-Champions League round of MLS games in which the teams who competed earlier in the week failed to win their league matchups on the weekend. The five teams are a combined 2-6-5.

The Philadelphia game will be even more challenging because the team may be without Barco and Jurgen Damm, who left Saturday’s game with muscle injuries. Both players were reaching out and holding their hamstrings as they left the field. Barco leads the team with two goals. Damm has one.

Centerback Anton Walkes said fatigue wasn’t the issue for the team against New England.

“We are professionals,” Walkes said. “A few of us have been in this league for a long time, and that’s happened over the last few years where fixtures start to pile up, especially toward the back end — it’s only the start, so I think it’s just time to reflect on how we performed.”

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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

May 9 at Inter Miami, 1 p.m., ABC

May 15 vs. Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 23 at Seattle, 4:30 p.m., Fox

May 29 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 20 vs. Philadelphia, 2 p.m., ESPN

June 23 at NYCFC (at Red Bull Arena), TBD, BSSO/BSSE

June 27 vs. New York Red Bulls, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at Chicago, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 8 at Nashville, 8:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. New England, 5 p.m., ESPN

July 21 at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., FS1

July 24 vs. Columbus, 3:30 p.m., ABC

July 30 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ESPN

Aug. 4 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 7 at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 15 vs. LAFC, 4 p.m. ESPN

Aug. 18 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at D.C. United, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 28 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 10 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, B7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 18 vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 25 at Philadelphia,3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 29 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Oct. 2 at Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

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