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)
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