Some positives, one recurring negative for Atlanta United against Revolution

Atlanta United forward Giorgos Giakoumakis #7 controls the ball during the first half of the match against New England Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Wednesday May 31, 2023. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta United forward Giorgos Giakoumakis #7 controls the ball during the first half of the match against New England Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Wednesday May 31, 2023. (Photo by Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United

It seems that even Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda has reached a shoulders-shrugging point with his team’s inability to prevent late goals.

Following Wednesday’s 3-3 draw with New England in which the Revolution scored in the 93rd minute to split the points, Pineda was asked in different ways why the team has given up eight goals in the 89th minute or later of matches this season.

Portions of Pineda’s answers revealed a manager who is trying to be positive but seems frustrated:

“Of course, conceding easy goals is one of those things we need to improve. What I think the hardest thing in football is to create chances and play offensively, so I think defensively it’s not easier, but we will try to work on that.”

And this:

“Now, there are moments of lack of concentration where we are allowing soft goals where it’s a little of lack of concentration. Certain things we can do better like blocking crosses, blocking shots. Like other things in life, you must continue improving, and some day we will fix it.”

That was a different tone than Pineda had expressed earlier this season (and one that he may use again) when he would say that the issues will be fixed, or that he’s confident the team will perform better.

Allowing the late goal took the shine off Atlanta United rallying from two goals down to take a 3-2 lead with goals by Giorgos Giakoumakis, Thiago Almada and a thunderous strike by Miguel Berry for what seemed to be the winning goal in the 87th minute. The team was on the verge of completing a two-goal rally for only the second time in franchise history.

And then the team switched off.

New England advanced, undefended, into Atlanta United’s defensive third. The ball came down the right channel before it was sent out wide too quickly for Machop Chol to be able to apply pressure. A cross was put in from the right. Centerback JuanJo Purata dove to head away the cross as it reached the near post. The tough clearance came to New England’s Carles Gil near the top of the 18-yard box. A left-footer, Atlanta United’s defenders slid to their right to try to take away Gil’s shooting angle. But Gil, a former MLS MVP, moved the ball to his right foot and slammed a 16-yard shot past Brad Guzan into the near corner.

“We need to do better at blocking crosses, blocking shots,” Pineda said. “In football, it’s tough to block all of them. The third one is the only shot they had in the second half. So, I mean, yeah, we need to block every shot in the game to not concede goals.”

Pineda took the responsibility for New England’s first goal, scored by Gil less than 30 seconds in the match, when Guzan passed the ball to him at the top of the box. Pineda said he doesn’t think that Guzan came back too quickly from an MCL injury suffered earlier this season.

Though the result wasn’t positive, there were quite a few things that Atlanta United can use in its remaining 18 league matches, starting Wednesday at LAFC.

Though neither Luiz Araujo nor Derrick Etienne had a goal or an assist, both were very lively and created a lot of problems for New England’s defenders. They combined for six shots and two chances created. Etienne had a penalty claim denied when his heel was clipped in the 18-yard box in the first half.

The team also showed new ways to work Giakoumakis into the build-up play, which resulted in the team’s play being more up-and-down than side-to-side. Giakoumakis had a season-high 47 touches.

The team dominated possession (71.9%), outshot the Revs (20-7), had more shots on goal (5-3), more created chances (15-3) and had a much higher expected goals total (1.8-0.9).

“I think you saw we didn’t give up after giving up the goals,” Etienne said. “I think they were definitely against the run of play. A little disappointing to be able to dominate that much and not win, being able to get three goals at home and not win. That’s something that we necessarily want to do. I think that we can build on it, just the idea to attack, the chances we were able to create. Unlucky on some of them, but still able to get three goals.”

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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1

March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0

March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1

March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1

April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0

April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1

April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2

April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1

April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1

May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1

May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1

May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0

May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 3

May 27 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

May 31 Atlanta United 3, New England 3

June 7 or Sept. 13 at Los Angeles FC, 10:30 p.m.

June 10 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 21 vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.

June 24 at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

July 2 vs. Philadelphia Union, 4 p.m., Fox

July 8 at CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 12 at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m.

July 15 vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Aug. 20 at Seattle Sounders, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 26 vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 30 vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 2 at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA

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