Late goal gives Atlanta United a draw with Nashville after long lightning delays

Atlanta United defender Alan Franco #6 passes during the match against Nashville SC at Nashville SC Stadium in Nashville, United States on Saturday May 21, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United defender Alan Franco #6 passes during the match against Nashville SC at Nashville SC Stadium in Nashville, United States on Saturday May 21, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

NASHVILLE -- A goal by Dom Dwyer in the 88th minute lifted Atlanta United to a 2-2 draw with Nashville on Saturday at GEODIS Park in a game delayed almost three hours by lightning.

The draw was like many the team has experienced this season because the goals allowed were self-inflicted. Atlanta United has won just one of its past seven league games. Atlanta United will host Columbus on May 28.

The matchup was a chance for Atlanta United (4-4-4) to gain a bit of revenge on Nashville, which rallied from 2-0 down to score three goals and knock the Five Stripes out of the U.S. Open Cup last week.

Thiago Almada scored his second goal in as many games for Atlanta United and Dwyer scored on assists by Brooks Lennon and Almada for the equalizer. Atlanta United is 1-4-2 on the road this season.

“I think the fight, the competitive mentality, I think we were a little bit unorganized at times, but with the right mentality, with the right attitude to come back into the game, and I think it was a reward for the players’ heart and passion to come back in a tough game, very difficult game,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said.

Atlanta United finished with an expected goals of 1.9 to Nashville’s 1.53, and outshot the hosts 14-13.

Pineda selected the same starting 11 as the group that drew 2-2 against New England last week. It’s just the second time this season that he’s been able to repeat a lineup. Ronaldo Cisneros started at striker with Almada, Marcelino Moreno and Luis Araujo in support. Mattheus Rossetto and Franco Ibarra were the central midfielders, Andrew Gutman and Lennon the fullbacks, Alan Franco and Alex de John the centerbacks, and Bobby Shuttleworth the goalkeeper. Josef Martinez, who rejoined team training earlier in the week, didn’t make the game-day roster.

Rain started to fall in the 12th minute and the players were pulled off the field because of a lightning delay at 8:15 p.m. with 18:54 gone on the clock. Three minutes before play was scheduled to restart at 8:56 p.m. there was another lightning strike, resulting in another 30-minute delay. Play restarted at 11:07 p.m., a delay of two hours, 52 minutes.

Pineda said the delay didn’t affect anything because both teams had to wait.

Nashville took a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute and it was the result of two Atlanta United mistakes. The first was a blind pass attempted by Rossetto that went right to a Nashville player. The ball was passed down the field to Hany Mukhtar, who was unmarked. He played in a cross to C.J. Sapong, who was also unmarked, for an easy tap-in. Pineda has said that Atlanta United can’t turn over the ball in its own third. Rossetto’s turnover was closer to midfield, but the ball was quickly played to Mukhtar in Atlanta United’s defensive third.

Atlanta United tied it at 1 in the 26th minute on a goal by Almada, with an assist by Moreno, who intercepted a pass from Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis in the 18-yard box. Moreno passed it to Almada to one-time a shot. Cisneros’ pressure on Willis forced the turnover. It was Almada’s third goal and Moreno’s team-leading fifth assist.

Nashville took a 2-1 lead in the 31st minute. An unpressured cross from Jack Maher – neither of the closest players, Araujo and Moreno, moved to close him down -- was played to the back post to Sapong, a tactic that the team had already tried several times. Sapong beat Lennon to win the header, sending the ball back across the box to an unmarked Mukhtar to head into the goal from just feet away.

“I think we’ve been struggling with that,” Pineda said. “We know that we need to adjust that. Again, I feel like like it’s not from from moments where we are organized. I think is more moments where we are not that organized and a little bit of ball-watching inside the box.”

Gutman sat down on the turf just before halftime. Pineda said he thinks Gutman suffered a quad or hip injury. He was kicked earlier in the game. Gutman was replaced by Ronald Hernandez when the second half resumed after a 10-minute break. Gutman suffered a shoulder injury when the team played at Nashville in the U.S. Open Cup last week.

A Franco header was pushed wide by Willis in the 60th minute just before it crossed the goal line.

Shuttleworth made a pair of saves a few minutes later to keep Atlanta United’s deficit at 1.

Pineda brought on Dwyer in the 74th minute and the team went with two strikers in an attempt to find the tying goal. Emerson Hyndman came on in the 85th minute.

Pineda said the team began to get disorganized because Araujo became the winger on the left and the team had just one central midfielder as it pushed for the tying goal.

The subs worked.

The team got its goal when Almada chipped it to Lennon at the back post, who played it back across for Dwyer to tap in. It was Dwyer’s second goal this season.

Shuttleworth made a diving save to his right in the 90th minute to preserve the draw.

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs Miami, 3 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

August 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

August 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1

August 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

August 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas