“It was just very brave performance, which makes me think that we’re heading in the right direction,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said.
Saturday’s match against Montreal was the team’s first match without fullback Andrew Gutman, who was traded to Colorado on Wednesday, and midfielder Franco Ibarra, who was loaned to Toronto on Thursday.
Pineda went with the same 5-2-2-1 formation he used and most of the same starters from last week’s 2-0 win against Philadelphia. Miguel Berry replaced the injured Giorgos Giakoumakis at striker with Thiago Almada and Tyler Wolff, who replaced Machop Chol, as the attacking midfielders. Amar Sejdic and Santiago Sosa, in for Ibarra, were the defensive midfielders. Lennon and Caleb Wiley were the wingbacks. JuanJo Purata, Luis Abram and Ronald Hernandez the centerbacks and Brad Guzan the goalkeeper.
Atlanta United just missed taking a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute when Almada played an inch-perfect pass to Lennon, who controlled the ball with his right foot and then set up to shoot. His right-footed shot went inches wide of the far past.
Berry followed with a short-range shot that was blocked a minute later.
Pineda said he was very proud of the players. He said Montreal did a good job of finding passing lanes through Atlanta United’s pressure in the first half. Adjustments were made at halftime resulting in Atlanta United controlling more of the possession.
Atlanta United took a 1-0 lead in the 54th minute when Lennon was the first to reach an Almada free kick that bounced off the right post. Lennon tapped in the ball for his third goal this season. Almada’s free kick was taken from 22 yards near the center of the pitch. Almada also won the foul that resulted in the free kick. It was the first time in Lennon’s Atlanta United career that he has scored in back-to-back matches.
“I had a really good feeling before Thiago kicked it that it was going to bounce back into a dangerous area and I was just ready for it,” Lennon said.
Pineda subbed on Chol for Wiley and Ajani Fortune for Wolff in the 69th minute. Matheus Rossetto came on for Sejdic in the 82nd minute.
Guzan came out to claim a well-taken Montreal cross six yards from goal in the 85th minute to defuse one scoring opportunity.
Ozzie Alonso came on in the 93rd minute for Sosa to try to help the team close out the victory. It’s among the reasons the club signed the veteran as a free agent before the 2022 season.
Montreal’s supporters erupted in boos and threw water bottles onto the pitch when its team’s attack was stopped because Purata was down on the grass with what appeared to be a cramp in his right leg in the 95th minute.
The final stats were unlike most Atlanta United matches but the change in formation may result in different results. Montreal had more of the possession (56.5 percent) and more shots (15-7). But Atlanta United finished with more shots on goal (3-1) and a higher expected goals (1.8-0.6).
“We’re getting used to the ideas of the coach,” Sosa said. “We try to give our best to win and then obviously the tactics could change. But the most important part is to play aggressive.”
It was the second consecutive match that Atlanta United limited an opponent to one shot on goal for the first time in franchise history.
“I think the mentality has shifted a little bit,” Lennon said. “Instead of having one mentality at home in the Benz and a different mentality on the road, we wanted to combine that and have the same performances on the road that we have at home. And obviously, we’re playing in a little bit of a different formation, which helps.”
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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule
Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1
March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1
March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0
March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1
March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1
April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0
April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1
April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2
April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1
April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1
May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1
May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1
May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0
May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 3
May 27 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1
May 31 Atlanta United 3, New England 3
June 7 Atlanta United 0, LAFC 0
June 10 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 1
June 21 Atlanta United 2, New York City 2
June 24 New York Red Bulls 4, Atlanta United 0
July 2 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 0
July 8 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0
July 12 at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m.
July 15 vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m., FS1
July 25 at Miami in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.
July 29 vs. Cruz Azul in Leagues Cup, 8 p.m.
Aug. 20 at Seattle Sounders, 10:30 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 30 vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA