Atlanta United offense came alive in second half vs. Revs, but what happened in the first?

Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon dribbles during the second half of the match against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Wednesday July 3, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon dribbles during the second half of the match against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Wednesday July 3, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — At least one difference emerged between Atlanta United interim manager Rob Valentino and his predecessor after Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at New England.

Atlanta United outshot the Revolution (20 to 12) and had more expected goals (1.9-1.1), two metrics that former manager Gonzalo Pineda frequently would reference following wins or losses.

Valentino had a different take following his first loss in his fifth match in charge.

“I think the positive is that there’s chances there, but the expected goals and chances, they don’t mean anything to me unless they go in the back of the net,” he said. “We can have the high expected goals and lose every game, and that wouldn’t be fun.”

The first 45 minutes Wednesday definitely were not fun for Atlanta United.

Playing without Thiago Almada, who is on the verge of being transferred, Atlanta United’s offense was sluggish. Xande Silva provided hope in the first minute with a shot. It then took until the final minute of the first half before Bartosz Slisz and Jay Fortune uncorked two more that forced saves.

Brooks Lennon said they missed Almada’s creativity. Daniel Rios described him as the team’s best player and the team was lacking the quality of his deliveries.

Valentino brushed off questions about Almada’s absence, saying he coaches the players he has.

Crosses were being put in by Lennon and Caleb Wiley, but either they weren’t spotting where their teammates were or teammates weren’t making enough runs, particularly to the back post, which was the target of most of the crosses.

“We needed more movement in there,” Valentino said. “Because movement hopefully will pull players apart a little bit. We just, we didn’t have it. So it’s something we need to continue working on.”

Atlanta United made halftime adjustments regarding trying to get runners behind New England, which was playing more compactly to protect its lead.

The Five Stripes eventually changed formation from a 5-3-2 to a 5-2-3. It put the Revs under pressure throughout the half with cross after cross. Atlanta United totaled 24 with 18 chances created. Wiley created six and Lennon four.

Lennon said it can be frustrating to put in so many crosses that aren’t being met by teammates, but it’s also up to him to vary his delivery.

One of those crosses, this time by Ronald Hernandez, was put into the goal by Rios in the 90th minute. It came from a pass to the back post.

Rios said Hernandez looked up, saw where he was making his run, and put the ball on his head.

“I think we have to improve that,” Rios said. “I think the guys that are crossing the ball, they need to look up. Just find the guy. It’s not putting the ball in the box; it’s a pass across, it’s a pass to goal. And find you find the striker or No. 10 wherever he’s in the box.”

It was a good sign for Atlanta United that Rios scored to increase his total to four in eight starts. Because of the sale of Giorgos Giakoumakis and an injury to Jamal Thiare that will keep him out at least two more weeks, Rios likely will be the striker until the team purchases another player for that position. There is no other natural striker on the roster.

Atlanta United will play at Real Salt Lake on Saturday, in an U.S. Open Cup match against Indy Eleven on Tuesday and at Montreal on July 13.

“It’s a big responsibility,” Rios said. “And I take the responsibility. I do my part inside the field ... and I’m doing a great job, and I will try to continue that. Just keep scoring goals keep persisting, keep helping the team as much as I can to get three points every time.”

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 Atlanta United 2, Orlando 0

March 23 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 0

March 31 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 0

April 6 Atlanta United 1, NYCFC 1

April 14 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

April 20 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

April 27 Atlanta United 1, Chicago 1

May 4 Minnesota 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte Independence 0 in U.S. Open Cup

May 11 D.C. United 3, Atlanta United 2

May 15 Cincinnati 1, Atlanta United 0

May 18 Atlanta United 1, Nashville 1

May 21 Atlanta United 0 (5), Charleston 0 (4) in U.S. Open Cup

May 25 LAFC 1, Atlanta United 0

May 29 Atlanta United 3, Miami 1

June 2 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 2

June 15 Atlanta United 2, Houston 2

June 19 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

June 22 Atlanta United 1, St. Louis 1

June 29 Atlanta United 2, Toronto 1

July 3 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 9 vs. Indy Eleven in U.S. Open Cup

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.