Atlanta United loses finale to NYCFC

With nothing to play for because it had no chance to make the MLS playoffs, Atlanta United mostly played NYCFC on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium like there was nothing on the line. And not in a good way.

The Five Stripes’ season ended with a 2-1 defeat in which it mustered one shot on goal through the game’s first 65 minutes. The lone highlight was a goal by Andrew Gutman that halved NYCFC’s lead. It missed the playoffs for the second time in six seasons.

“Because our standard is higher than just making playoffs, that’s for sure, so in that sense, it wasn’t a good year for us,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “And for me personally, as a coach ... the real evaluation will take a little bit of more time.”

Among the unwanted franchise records set by the team in a 34-game season:

  • Its home record of 8-4-5 was the fewest wins at its stadium.
  • Its 10 wins were the fewest and its 14 losses were the most in any season.
  • Its 40 points were its fewest.
  • The 54 goals allowed were the most in franchise history.
  • Its 48 goals scored were the team’s second fewest.

“I don’t think it was a good season for all of us,” Luiz Araujo said. Several players, including Josef Martinez, Thiago Almada and Marcelino Moreno declined to talk after the game.

Manager Gonzalo Pineda made a few changes, one required because of Santiago Sosa’s three-game suspension, to the starting 11. Edwin Mosquera was given his first start at left wing with Araujo on the right in support of Dom Dwyer at striker and Almada as attacking midfielder. Matheus Rossetto replaced Sosa in central midfield. He was paired with Amar Sejdic. Gutman and Brooks Lennon started as the fullbacks, with Alan Franco and JuanJo Purata as the centerbacks and Raul Gudino in goal.

NYCFC grabbed a 1-0 lead when Talles Magno played a crafty, no-look through ball that split Atlanta United’s defenders. Gabriel Pereira ran onto the pass, rounded an onrushing Gudino and chipped the ball into the goal in the ninth minute. It was the 22nd goal allowed in the first 30 minutes of games this season.

NYCFC 2, Atlanta United 1 (match statistics)

Atlanta United came close to answering two minutes later when Franco was the first to reach a free kick to the back post. His pass across the goal was headed by Gutman just wide of the post.

NYCFC hit the post in the 20th minute after forcing a turnover in Atlanta United’s third.

Atlanta United put one of its three shots on goal in the first half. It had an expected goals of 0.1.

To try to spark the offense, Pineda brought on Martinez and Moreno, in what could be their final games for the team depending upon what happens this offseason, for Dwyer and Rossetto to start the second half. Rocco Rios Novo also replaced Gudino, whose right knee was examined by trainers after a collision with a teammate late in the first half.

NYCFC increased its lead to 2-0 in the 60th minute when Heber turned in a corner kick. It was the 15th goal allowed on a set piece by Atlanta United this season.

Franco Ibarra replaced Mosquera in the 61st minute.

Atlanta United cut its deficit to 2-1 on a goal by a flying Gutman in the 67th minute. He leapt and volleyed in a shot from close range. It was assisted by Almada, his team-leading 12th, and by Araujo, his sixth. It was Gutman’s fourth goal. The tally came on Atlanta United’s second shot on goal.

Sean Johnson, a native of Lilburn, dove down to his right to stop a Gutman shot that was heading for the lower left corner in the 82nd minute. Johnson made two more saves in the final minutes.

Atlanta United put four of its 12 shots on goal to NYCFC’s four on 15. The Five Stripes finished with a higher xG, 1.51-1.39.

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS results

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 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0

Aug. 6 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 1

Aug. 13 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

Aug. 17 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

Aug. 21 Atlanta United 2, Columbus 2

Aug. 28 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

Aug. 31 Philadelphia 4, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 4 Portland 2, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 10 Atlanta United 4, Toronto 2

Sept. 14 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 0

Sept. 17 Atlanta United 0 Philadelphia 0

Oct. 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

Oct. 9 NYCFC 2, Atlanta United 1