NYCFC 3, Atlanta United 1: 5 observations

Atlanta United midfielder Carlos Carmona (left) defends New York City FC forward David Villa (7) during the first half 
 Sunday, May 7, 2017, in New York.
Caption
Atlanta United midfielder Carlos Carmona (left) defends New York City FC forward David Villa (7) during the first half Sunday, May 7, 2017, in New York.

Credit: Kathy Willens

Credit: Kathy Willens

It’s unfair this early in the season to say Atlanta United is in crisis. But after Sunday’s 3-1 loss at NYCFC, it is fair to say things aren’t looking as bright as they did a month ago.

The Five Stripes (3-4-2) have just one win in their past six games and the offense looked out of ideas for most of Sunday’s game. It was a part of the same problem that prevented a rally in last week’s 3-1 loss to D.C. United at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“I just want to talk about today’s game,” Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino said. “Today, there were no positives we can rescue from the game. We faced a superior team today.”

Goals from David Villa, Rodney Wallace and Maxi Moralez were more than enough to cancel out Carlos Carmona’s first goal for Atlanta United on a cold, rainy day at Yankee Stadium and its bizarre, small pitch.

Here are five observations about the game:

Just 11 points. Considered by far the better of the two expansion teams before the season, Atlanta United has the same point total (11) as Minnesota United, which has seven points from its past four games while Atlanta United has picked up three in the same span.

Grabbing points isn’t going to get any easier with games upcoming at Portland and then at home against Houston. Both are among the best teams in the Western Conference.

Asked if the team felt for the first time like it was an expansion group, captain Michael Parkhurst said, “Every team in MLS I’ve been on goes through these periods. Every team. Look at the results in MLS this weekend. Teams go through it. We’ve gone through it now twice in a row here. This is a testing time for us. An expansion team maybe is slower to come out of it. But we don’t see ourselves as an expansion team so we will come out of this quickly.”

Problems with the offense. Perhaps most troubling for Atlanta United was even after it fell behind 3-1 and NYCFC could relax, Atlanta United couldn't consistently put enough passes together to get the ball out of its own half, much less long enough to create more than a handful of goal-scoring chances.

It’s a much different looking team than the one that blitzed Minnesota United and Chicago for 10 goals in the second and third games of the season.

Even in its most recent win, a 3-1 triumph at Salt Lake, the offense didn’t look as crisp as it once did.

The biggest difference has been the absence of leading scorer Josef Martinez, who hasn’t played since the season’s third game after picking up a thigh injury while playing for the Venezuelan national team in March.

He has resumed training, but the club hasn’t said when he may return. Martino said on Sunday he didn’t think neither Martinez nor winger Jacob Peterson would be participating in team activities this week.

“Josef is a great player,” Miguel Almiron said. “We hope he is recovering well and able to get back as soon as possible. At the same time, we have players who are capable of stepping in.”

First goal. NYCFC's Villa struck first with a right-footed shot that bounced off goalkeeper Alec Kann's far post and into the goal in the 17th minute. Villa split Atlanta United's defense thanks to a clever backheel from Wallace on a quick counter-attack and hit the shot from 15 yards away. Martino called it a goal of high quality.

Atlanta United ties it. Though its offense looked toothless for most of the half, Atlanta United tied the game 1-1 on a volley from Carmona in the 39th minute. Kenwyne Jones caused trouble on a long throw-in by occupying two defenders in the penalty box. The ball bounced out of that scrum and bounded toward Carmona, who slammed a half-volley into the opposite corner for his first MLS goal. Martino said it wasn't a goal that his team deserved.

Second-half blitz. NYCFC came out of the intermission fired up, peppering Kann's goal with several shots that forced Tyrone Mears and then Leandro Gonzalez Pirez into goal-line clearances in a matter of seconds. Finally, Kann dove to his left and used a strong left-hand to knock away low-hard shot and end the threat.

“Straight from the get-go in the second half, we just didn’t bring it,” Parkhurst said. “Against a good team, you get punished. We were lucky we didn’t get punished in the first 30 seconds of the second half.”

NYCFC finally broke through in the 60th minute on a goal by Wallace, who scored with a backheel. An NYCFC player beat Garza on an overlap and put in a hard cross that bounced off Wallace, whose back was to the goal.

Three minutes later NYCFC added another on a goal by Moralez, who ran onto a header from Villa.

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