Team puts just two shots on goal in Gonzalo Pineda’s debut

Playing its first game under new manager Gonzalo Pineda, Atlanta United’s four-game win streak ended with a 2-0 loss to Nashville on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Despite fielding its strongest attacking lineup, the Five Stripes struggled to break down Nashville’s stout defense for most of the game. The team didn’t put a shot on goal during live play until well into the second half. It finished with two shots on goal, tying a season low set four previous times. The team was shut out for the first time in seven games and the seventh time this season.

“I cannot say we’re satisfied, obviously, we lost the game,” Pineda said. “And that’s painful. That’s painful. To me, that’s painful for the players and for the fans, which is the most important part. What I can say that I’m happy with the effort of the players, and I’m happy with them, trying to score many goals, trying to cross from deeper areas to try to create more chances trying to just do everything to win.”

The team (6-7-9) has taken only 15 of a possible 30 points from its home games.

The loss will keep Atlanta United below the playoff line heading into next week’s FIFA-mandated break. The team will next play when it hosts Orlando on Sept. 10. Saturday’s game had an announced attendance of 42,506.

Pineda’s first starting 11 was the same as the one used by interim manager Rob Valentino in the previous game at D.C. United. It consisted of Josef Martinez at striker, Ezequiel Barco as an attacking midfielder, Luiz Araujo on the right wing, Marcelino Moreno and Amar Sejdic in the central midfield, Brooks Lennon and George Bello as the wingbacks, Miles Robinson, Alan Franco and Anton Walkes as the centerbacks, with Brad Guzan in goal.

Pineda said he wanted to try to get the attacking players isolated against Nashville defenders, which frequently included a back five with a bank of three in front of it.

The ideas were evident even if the execution wasn’t.

Atlanta United had a penalty claim denied after referee Rosendo Mendoza reviewed his original call on the sideline monitor. Instead, the team was given a free kick just outside the penalty box. The original play started with Bello beating one defender before being taken down by another.

Nashville started to find seams in Atlanta United’s defense in the final minutes of the first half, and it finally broke through in the 47th minute with the opening goal when Daniel Rios got away from Franco to put a right-footed shot past Guzan to the near post.

Atlanta United put its first shot on goal, and second overall, during live play in the 54th minute when an effort by Araujo was saved by Nashville’s Joe Willis.

“It’s tough, when they sit in and they’ve got that back five,” Robinson said. “They’re disciplined in defense. We’ve just got to, you know, try to get better to create chances, more chances in the game. I don’t think they had very many chances either. So it was just kind of a stalemate of a game.”

Pineda subbed on Matheus Rossetto and Erik Lopez for Franco and Sejdic in the 68th minute. The subs forced a formation switch from three centerbacks to two, which put another player into Atlanta United’s midfield in an attempt to find the tying goal.

Nashville 2, Atlanta United 0 (match statistics)

Atlanta United wasted two good chances a minute later when Araujo and Martinez mis-hit shots.

Martinez tried a pass in the 77th minute that easily was picked off by Willis. Martinez grabbed the signage behind the goal and aggressively shook them in frustration.

Pineda subbed on Ronald Hernandez and Jurgen Damm for Lennon and Araujo in the 84th minute in one final attempt to spark the offense.

The team’s final chance came when Martinez headed a shot just wide. He ripped his jersey at the neck and kicked the goal post in frustration after the miss.

“This one is on me,” Pineda said. “I always say they have big shoulders to take responsibility. And this one is for me. My job is to give the players the tools to succeed. And maybe that’s something that I didn’t do today. And that’s me and not the players. I cannot ask any more in terms of the effort and the heart and the passion.”

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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 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 1,

May 15 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

May 23 Atlanta United 1, Seattle 1

May 29 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

June 20 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

June 23 NYCFC 1, Atlanta United 0

June 27 Atlanta United 0, New York Red Bulls 0

July 3 Chicago 3, Atlanta United 0

July 8 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

July 17 New England 1, Atlanta United 0

July 21 Atlanta United 1, Cincinnati 1

July 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Orlando 3, Atlanta United 2

Aug. 4 Atlanta United 2, Montreal 2

Aug. 7 Atlanta United 3, Columbus 2

Aug. 15 Atlanta United 1, LAFC 0

Aug. 18 Atlanta United 1, Toronto

Aug. 21 Atlanta United 2, D.C. United 1

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

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

Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, 7 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 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

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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