FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Saba Lobjanidze’s two goals not only gave Atlanta United a 3-1 victory against Miami on Wednesday but they may have provided the spark needed to save its MLS season.

The win snapped Atlanta United’s nine-match winless streak, was its second multi-goal game in its past 10, and its first road win this season. Jamal Thiare scored the third goal, his fourth this season. Lobjanidze increased his season total to four.

“I think it was a massive, massive performance,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “But we’ve been playing good. We’ve been playing maybe not at the same caliber, but something close to this and we didn’t get many results. Today, we did very well in terms of being clinical in the key moments. And I think the players deserve every single part of those three points.”

The victory was Atlanta United’s 100th in MLS.

“The most important thing is the results,” Lobjanidze said. “I said before the game like I came here for the three points. I know the team. I know my team, we were struggling, but like I still had a good feeling before the game.”

Atlanta United (4-7-4) looked like a different team than the one that hadn’t won since March 31. Playing a different formation, its players were aggressive and smart with the ball and with their runs into spaces, and patiently focused when defending a Miami attack that featured standout players Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Atlanta United became the first MLS team to beat Miami at its home in a match Messi started. The result also marked the first time since 2021 that a Messi club team lost when he scored.

Atlanta United dominated Miami and former Five Stripes manager Gerardo Martino on a hot, muggy night that required mid-half hydration breaks at Chase Stadium. It outshot the Herons, 26-12, put more shots on goal, 8-5, and finished with a higher expected goals total, 3.4-0.6.

Martino said Miami’s performance was unexpected and that there were no positives from the match. He said Atlanta United’s record is deceiving because of the injuries it has suffered and that the team is different when Thiago Almada plays. It was his first start since suffering a calf injury at Cincinnati.

Pineda’s lineup included a change in formation to three in the back and with captain Almada serving in the role for the first time, along with Thiare as striker, Lobjanidze on the wing, Tristan Muyumba and Dax McCarty in the midfield, Derrick Williams, Stian Gregersen and Luis Abram as the centerbacks, Brooks Lennon and Caleb Wiley as the wingbacks, and Josh Cohen making his first start in goal in place of Brad Guzan. Bartosz Slisz was unavailable because of a prescheduled personal matter.

Pineda has typically selected just two centerbacks throughout his time as Atlanta United’s manager but with the offense struggling, Pineda went with three to try to make sure the defense was solid while giving the attack a chance to be more vertical with wingbacks and wingers playing off the central midfielders.

Pineda wanted three midfielders to occupy spaces that Messi and Suarez like to drop into. Messi finished with a goal on four shots and Suarez had three shots. They combined to create four chances.

“The players did amazing in terms of those times,” Pineda said.

Gregersen said the formation change helped Atlanta United stay compact defensively.

“We need that because of their attackers, they are very, very good,” Gregersen said.

Atlanta United midfielder Saba Lobjanidze #9 celebrates after a goal during the first half of the match against the Inter Miami at Chase Field in Fort Lauderdale, FL on Wednesday May 29, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

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Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United was lively early. It patiently played its way through Miami’s defense with a sequence ending with a Lennon shot going inches wide in the 10th minute. Atlanta United created 10 shots through the first 30 minutes, a more aggressive result than in past matches.

Atlanta United got its reward on its 14th shot when Lobjanidze hammered a shot from 22 yards into the upper left corner for a 1-0 lead in the 44th minute. It started with Muyumba intercepting a pass from Sergio Busquets in Atlanta United’s half. McCarty passed it to the Lobjanidze, who found Muyumba, who passed it back to Lobjanidze. No one moved to close him down. He kept dribbling before cutting in on his right foot for his third goal this season. It was Muyumba’s second assist.

Atlanta United limited Miami’s attack, which led MLS in goals, to three shots in the first half, none on goal. Atlanta United finished with 14 and four.

Lobjanidze struck with his left foot, again from 20 yards, to give Atlanta United a 2-0 lead in the 59th minute. It started with Almada getting away from four Miami players deep in Atlanta United’s half by passing the ball across the field to Lennon, who passed it to Lobjanidze. Just as on the first goal, no Miami player moved to close down Lobjanidze as he worked his way into a shooting position.

After both goals, Lobjanidze celebrated by putting the ball under his shirt and putting his thumb in his mouth. He was also celebrating the fact that his partner is due to have a baby girl in July.

Lobjanidze said he wasn’t surprised that on both goals he had yards of space in front of him with no defender closing him down. He said he and Pineda spoke in the days before the match about him being more aggressive with his dribbling.

Messi cut Atlanta United’s lead to 2-1 three minutes later when Atlanta United was too slow to pressure him at the top of the box. His shot went past several players before finding the lower right corner.

Thiare reached out a long right leg to touch in a cross by Wiley and give Atlanta United a 3-1 lead in the 73rd minute. Almada and Wiley sliced through Miami’s tired defense to set up the score.

“I think the reward is not just about today, it’s about the many games where they were doing really, really good but it’s tough when you are outplaying certain opponents and creating better expected goals than the opponents but we didn’t get the three points and you can lose your confidence at some point,” Pineda said of Lobjanidze and Thiare.

Pineda subbed on Noah Cobb and Edwin Mosquera for Williams and Lobjanidze, who tied Almada, Lennon and Muyumba for the team lead in chances created (3) in the 74th minute. Giorgos Giakoumakis and Jay Fortune subbed on for Thiare and McCarty in the 83rd minute. Ronald Hernandez subbed on for Almada in the 89th minute.

Atlanta United will host Charlotte on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The stadium will open to its full capacity.

“I think I think the reward is not just about today, it’s about the many games where they were doing really, really good but it’s tough when you are outplaying certain opponents and creating better expected goals than the opponents but we didn’t get the three points and you can lose your confidence at some point,” Pineda said. “So for me, it was a big, big sign of great mentality for the team. But it’s also a reward for the fans because one thing I really appreciated today was the corner on the back of the goal; it was completely filled by our fans that travel here trying to motivate our players. That was amazing.”

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 Atlanta United 2, Orlando 0

March 23 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 0

March 31 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 0

April 6 Atlanta United 1, NYCFC 1

April 14 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

April 20 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

April 27 Atlanta United 1, Chicago 1

May 4 Minnesota 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte Independence 0 in U.S. Open Cup

May 11 D.C. United 3, Atlanta United 2

May 15 Cincinnati 1, Atlanta United 0

May 18 Atlanta United 1, Nashville 1

May 21 Atlanta United 0 (5), Charleston 0 (4) in U.S. Open Cup

May 25 LAFC 1, Atlanta United 0

May 29 Atlanta United 3, Miami 1

June 2 vs Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FOX

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.