A late goal from what looked to be a defensive lapse by Atlanta United offset two goals from Josef Martinez and another by Justin Meram as the team was held to a 3-3 draw by the New York Red Bulls on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta United (9-7-3) has just one win in four games since the International break and once again failed to defeat Red Bulls in a regular season game, falling to 0-4-2.
What looked to be Martinez’s winning goal came on a header that touched the underside of the bar before barely crossing the line in first minute of stoppage time.
But Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips equalized two minutes later when a pass split several Atlanta United defenders. Wright-Phillips was unmarked in the center of the penalty box and hit the simple shot to tie the game.
“When you are so close to a victory, whatever pass comes into the area you have to stop it,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said. “Maybe it was a good pass, but maybe also I think a little bit of luck involved. Still, we weren’t tight enough at that moment. We have to understand it’s 30 seconds, 40 seconds to go. We have to put everyone in front of the ball. We worked so hard to come back and you go away with a very bad taste in your mouth.”
Atlanta United will host. St. Louis in the Open Cup on Wednesday at Kennesaw State and will play at Seattle on July 14.
The draw was especially demoralizing because it came just a few days after Atlanta United gave up a franchise-high five goals in the first half of a 5-1 loss at Chicago. After the game, de Boer said his team needed to show its character on Sunday against Red Bulls.
“It feels like a loss,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “You’re winning 3-2 that late in the game you have to see it out.”
De Boer selected a lineup that couldn’t include centerback Leandro Gonzalez Pirez (red card against Chicago) and midfielders Hector Villalba and Ezequiel Barco, who were injured. However, the team did have Martinez for the first time since June 1. He had been with the Venezuelan national team competing at Copa America in Brazil. The rest of the lineup included Guzan, Franco Escobar, Miles Robinson, Flo Pogba, in for Gonzalez Pirez and Mikey Ambrose across the back. The midfield was Eric Remedi, Darlington Nagbe, Julian Gressel, Pity Martinez and Meram.
Red Bulls also had a few issues: Because of weather-related problems in New Jersey, the Red Bulls weren’t able to fly to Atlanta on Saturday. Instead, the team flew Sunday morning, arriving in Atlanta around 10 a.m. The team went straight from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta United grabbed a 1-0 lead on Meram’s effort in the 11th minute. Pity Martinez put Meram down the left wing. Meram cut inside his defender, looked up to see where goalkeeper Luis Robles was positioned, and hit a hard shot into the lower left corner at the near post. It was Meram’s third goal this season and third in as many starts. The sequence started with a header from Robinson to Gressel, whose header found Martinez.
De Boer was forced to make an early sub in the 29th minute when Michael Parkhurst came on for the injured Pogba, who played well, particularly in the opening minutes when Red Bulls targeted him. De Boer said Pogba suffered a hamstring injury. He was trying to avoid using him three times in eight days, but Wednesday’s red card forced his hand.
Red Bulls tied the game at 1 when Alex Muyl forced a turnover by Ambrose. Muyl passed to Marc Rzatkowski at the top of the penalty box. He hit a shot pass to his left to Royer, who turned Escobar before shooting from 12 yards away in the 37th minute.
Red Bulls grabbed a 2-1 lead in the 60th minute on a goal from Brian White. Red Bulls passed right down the middle of Atlanta United’s defense with Parkhurst unable to turn to get a foot on a ball to Muyl, whose cross found White unmarked yards from goal.
De Boer subbed off Pity Martinez for Brandon Vazquez in the 63rd minute to try to spark the offense and win long balls. Jeff Larentowicz came on a few minutes later, which de Boer said turned around the offense because the two players began winning balls and duels.
The game began to open up.
Martinez’s penalty kick in the 78th minute tied the game at 2. It was his team-leading 11th goal this season.
Then came his header off a perfect pass from Escobar. Martinez jumped between two defenders and put his header back across goal and over Robles.
“They are a team that has been like a rock in our shoe for a while,” Martinez said. “After we recover and come back from a 2-1 deficit, we can’t give up that last goal. We aren’t little kids. We are players with a lot of experience in this league. There are good things and bad things. We just have to learn from it.”
The work was undone by Red Bulls three minutes later. New York created an overload on its right side. The pass skipped behind Robinson, who ran with a man he was marking at the near post, and to Wright-Phillips, who was between defenders. Nagbe was pressuring the passer, and Larentowicz trailed Wright-Phillips but appeared to be marking a player near him. Escobar, who had shifted over to mark another Red Bulls players, was not in position to reach the pass.
“You can’t allow someone like Bradley Wright-Phillips eight yards from goal inside your penalty box free,” Guzan said.
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