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Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew, 2017 Carolina Challenge Cup: Final score 1-2, Higuain brace hands United loss

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A strong start was outweighed by a poor second half.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at LA Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United continued their preparations for their inaugural MLS season with a 2-1 loss to Columbus Crew SC on an overcast day at MUSC Health Stadium in Charleston, SC.

The Five Stripes began the match on the front foot and didn’t let the Crew breath. Their intense pressure paid off just six minutes into the match when Tito Villalba collected a ball on the right flank and crossed into Josef Martinez who finished brilliantly with a diving header. It’s his second such goal in as many games as he kicked off his preseason with a very similar goal against Chattanooga.

Atlanta continued to pile on the high pressure forcing Columbus into silly turnovers for a good chuck of the first half. Finally they got a foothold in the match and created some chances. Ethan Finlay carved out a great chance to equalize and would have if not for a great diving save by Alec Kann to deny his curling shot.

The Crew came out the second half and looked a lot fresher than United who are only playing their second match. The starters remained in until the 60th minute and the tired legs showed as they gave up the lead and fell behind thank to two goals from Federico Higuain.

Alec Kann made a terrible mistake on a clearance attempt and gifted the equalizing goal. While the second came as the United backline was out of sorts and left Higuain wide open for an easy header in the box.

They continued to control the play for the latter portion of the match as Atlanta only managed spurts of energy and possession. If not for some poor finishing in front of goal by the Crew it could’ve been three or four goals against.

Quick Thoughts

  • The high pressure from Atlanta was a thing of beauty. It took Columbus ages to figure out what to do.
  • Leandro Gonzalez Pirez had a moment of brilliance in the first half where he cut out a dangerous ball and in one fluid motion turned up field and played a great ball to Almiron on the left flank. He’s a very good player.
  • Sloppy turnovers did lead to some counter-attacks for Columbus. That’ll need to be sorted as the season approaches.
  • Tired legs or not, the defensive breakdowns on the goal were worrisome. Mears was manhandled and no one marked Higuain in the box.

Up Next

Atlanta United continue on in the Carolina Challenge Cup with a midweek friendly against the MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders. That match will kickoff at 7:30 p.m.