Atlanta United falls to Toronto on late goal

Atlanta United's Jurgen Damm (left) and  Mo Adams (right) challenge Toronto FC's Tony Gallacher during the first half Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in East Hartford, Conn. Toronto won 1-0. (Jessica Hill/AP)
Atlanta United's Jurgen Damm (left) and Mo Adams (right) challenge Toronto FC's Tony Gallacher during the first half Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in East Hartford, Conn. Toronto won 1-0. (Jessica Hill/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta United gave up a goal in the 89th minute Sunday to fall at Toronto 1-0.

The defeat was costly for several reasons.

First, giving up the point that would have come from a draw means that the team remains at 19 and in 11th place in the East. The top 10 teams will qualify for the playoffs. Atlanta United has four games remaining. It trails ninth-place Nashville by two points and 10th place Chicago by one point. Atlanta United leads Inter Miami by one point and Cincinnati by three points. Atlanta United will host D.C. United, which is in last place in the East, on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Second, Ezequiel Barco played for the first time since Sept. 12 and he and Marcelino Moreno, the other healthy Designated Player, played together for the first time this season as subs to start the second half. Still, for the third consecutive game Atlanta United mustered one solitary shot on goal despite playing what may be its strongest lineup for the game’s final 45 minutes. The team was shut out for the third time in the past four games.

Toronto FC's Richie Laryea (bottom right), falls over Atlanta United's Miles Robinson on a drive to the goal as Atlanta United's Fernando Meza (top lef), and goalkeeper Brad Guzan (right) defend during the second half Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in East Hartford, Conn. (Jessica Hill/AP)
Toronto FC's Richie Laryea (bottom right), falls over Atlanta United's Miles Robinson on a drive to the goal as Atlanta United's Fernando Meza (top lef), and goalkeeper Brad Guzan (right) defend during the second half Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in East Hartford, Conn. (Jessica Hill/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

“It’s no secret that we aren’t getting loads of chances,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “That’s the game. It’s certainly frustrating. There’s frustration in the sense of the result. We have to try to find a way to pick up points over the last four games and see where we end up.”

The winning goal was scored by Pablo Piatti, who headed in a cross from Richie Laryea. Piatti met the ball at the near post and put in a slow shot into the lower left corner. It was hit with just enough precision that Guzan couldn’t reach it.

“Massively (disappointed) because I think the performance of the players and the work rate, they deserved a lot more tonight,” said interim Atlanta United manager Stephen Glass. “We are very disappointed not to get one or three points. If we continue that performance level hopefully we will be well situated come playoff time."

Atlanta United’s starting 11 was composed of Guzan, Anton Walkes, Fernando Meza, Miles Robinson, George Bello, Mo Adams, Eric Remedi, Emerson Hyndman, Jurgen Damm, Jake Mulraney and Jon Gallagher. Also of importance, Barco made a gameday roster for the first time in the past eight games. Moreno was also on the bench.

Toronto was forced to make a sub in the 21st minute when midfielder Jonathan Osorio left with an injury. He was replace by Michael Bradley, himself returning from an injury.

Though Atlanta United played well, it could consider itself fortunate to be tied at halftime. Alejandro Pozuelo, arguably the league’s MVP, was left open in the box early in the half but put his shot right at Guzan. Two more shots were put right at Guzan near the end of the half. Through the first 45 minutes, Toronto put four shots on goal compared to Atlanta United’s zero.

Glass didn’t wait to attempt to spark the offense, subbing on Barco and Moreno to start the second half. It was the first time since the game against Orlando on Aug. 29 that Atlanta United played with two DPs. In that game it only happened for the final 30 minutes because Barco was subbed on. Mulraney and Hyndman were the subs who came off against Toronto. From Sept. 19 through Sunday’s first half, a span of 7-1/2 games, Atlanta United has played with a DP for just 60 minutes when Moreno made his debut.

The game remain tied through 65 minutes when Glass made two more changes, bringing on Erick Torres and Brooks Lennon for Damm and Gallagher.

Lennon found Torres less than three minutes later with a cross that was saved on a headed shot. It was Atlanta United’s first shot on goal. Torres did good work to get away from Omar Gonzalez but the save continued his tough start with no goals yet scored since playing his first game for the team in mid-August.

Still, the game remain tied through 74 minutes and Glass made his final sub, brining on Matheus Rossetto for Remedi in an offensive-minded change.

As has been the case most of the past four games, it didn’t work.

“When you concede a goal in the 88th minute, it’s a tough pill to swallow,” Adams said. “It’s time to pick our heads up. We don’t have many games left. Some of them are winnable. We have to put points on the board or it’s going to be an extremely disappointing season for us.”

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Atlanta United coming games

Saturday vs. D.C. United (2-5-5), 4 p.m., FSSE

Oct. 28 at Orlando (6-2-4), 7:30 p.m., FS1

Nov. 1 vs. Cincinnati (3-6-3), 7 p.m., FSSE

Nov. 8 at Columbus (8-1-3), 3:30 p.m., FSSE

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