Giorgos Giakoumakis, Saba Lobjanidze score as Atlanta United ties FC Dallas

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda gives instruction from the sideline during second-half MLS soccer match action against CF Montreal in Montreal, Saturday, July 8, 2023. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda gives instruction from the sideline during second-half MLS soccer match action against CF Montreal in Montreal, Saturday, July 8, 2023. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Atlanta United and FC Dallas played with the urgency of clubs jockeying for playoff positioning Saturday evening, finishing with a 2-2 tie at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

The Five Stripes (11-8-9) missed opportunities to earn three points, but they also narrowly avoided leaving Texas empty-handed. Luis Abram saved a goal with a superb tackle in the 50th minute. In the 78th minute, Dallas’ go-ahead goal was wiped out by an offside call.

“We did enough that we could have won this game, but at the same time, we made a few mistakes that didn’t help us,” Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said.

Atlanta United, despite largely being outplayed in the first half, finished with more shots (16-13), shots on goal (6-3) and corner kicks (5-3) overall. It had possession nearly 60% of the time. The club led as late as the 62nd minute after Saba Lobjanidze put it ahead.

Lobjanidze, making his first start, went 1-on-1 on the right side of the box and fired a left-footed shot into the left corner of the net in the 58th minute. The Georgian international, who signed one month ago, had scored his first goal last weekend against Nashville.

“It was a nice goal,” Lobjanidze said. “In general, everything (with Atlanta United) has been perfect. I’m really happy to be here. I’ve really enjoyed every training. It’s a very good staff, good teammates. Everything has been really good.”

Unfortunately for the Five Stripes, they surrendered an equalizer only four minutes after Lobjanidze’s goal. Bernard Kamungo beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan to the ball and pushed it past him for a 2-2 tie. Kamungo injured his shoulder on the goal and left on a stretcher.

Atlanta United fell behind almost immediately Saturday night. In the fourth minute, Paul Arriola found the bottom right corner of the net for his first goal of the season. Pineda said he’s “very upset” about the goal, given that he felt there should’ve been a foul on Jesus Ferreira, who pushed Miles Robinson to get position before relaying the ball to Arriola.

“I think 99 times out of 100, those are fouls,” Pineda said. “But we got the 1% of the sample. I’m very, very upset at that one because I can show you many, many examples – not just us, but other teams in the world – that those are fouls. It’s a push from behind … two arms clearly on the back of Miles, then from there it’s a goal. I’m very upset at that one.”

The game, which was played in mid-90s weather conditions, nonetheless featured a lot of energy. The Five Stripes persisted for the next 40 minutes before finally striking.

Before the game, Pineda had said he couldn’t envision Giorgos Giakoumakis going three consecutive matches without a goal. Giakoumakis scored the equalizer in the 44th minute, a header off a beautiful assist from Thiago Almada. The teams were tied 1-1 at intermission, and Giakoumakis’ heroics were a savior, considering how Atlanta United hadn’t managed many chances.

Atlanta United has scored 51 goals this season, making the Five Stripes one of three clubs to reach that mark (Columbus, 54; St. Louis, 52). Giakoumakis has 13 goals, tying him for most in MLS. Almada’s 14 assists are tied for Atlanta United’s single-season record.

The Five Stripes have only four wins in their past 31 road games across all competition.

This was Atlanta United’s third game in eight days. The club went 1-1-1, earning four of nine possible points. The Five Stripes remain sixth in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Philadelphia (43) and three behind Columbus (45) in fourth.

“I’m a little bit disappointed we didn’t get the three points (against Dallas), but I think one point is good,” Lobjanidze said. “I think we deserved three points. We had the chances. But Dallas is a really good team. One point is good, but I hope next game will be three points.”

Indeed, it’s the second consecutive match that Atlanta United had a second-half lead but couldn’t secure the win. It squandered the game late against Cincinnati earlier in the week, suffering a loss.

“The question we have is how do we secure the three points,” Pineda said. “Two nights in a row that we were winning and then we didn’t collect three points. What we need to do, what’s the mentality once we’re winning, those are good questions to solve in the next few days. I hope this break helps us reveal a few things, fix a few things, and then we’ll go a step higher in the performance of the team.”

Atlanta United has six games remaining before the playoffs. Its next match is Sept. 16, when Lionel Messi and Inter Miami come to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. While Miami sits at the bottom of the standings, the Five Stripes’ next five opponents after Miami currently hold playoff positions.