The Chicago Fire were set on avenging a 4-0 loss to Atlanta United suffered at Bobby Dodd Stadium on March 18. They got it in the form of a 2-0 victory at Toyota Park, holding Atlanta scoreless for only the second time all season, the first coming in a goalless draw at Seattle Sounders FC on March 31.
A clear missed chance in the opening quarter of the match ended up serving as foreshadowing for what the remainder would look like for Atlanta. Late in the 12th minute, Tito Villalba found himself with the ball behind the defense with only Matt Lampson to beat, but he five-holed it past Lampson and wide of the net for the game’s first real opportunity, one that you simply can’t miss on. The Fire looked as if they’d have something in the 24th minute as David Accam broke free and would have scored if not for his hesitation and timely defense by Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz.
In the 29th, though, Accam found himself in open space again and, like before, hesitated - only this time it was just long enough to set up Luis Solignac’s yawning net tally for the match’s first goal. There was some question as to whether or not Accam and/or Nemanja Nikolic were offside, but either way, Chicago were able to get behind the defense far too much today.
Meanwhile, Atlanta’s attack looked rather tame in the first half as outside of Villalba’s mishit and a great free kick into the area by Kratz that didn’t have anyone on the other end of it, they didn’t challenge Lampson all that much. In an attempt to ignite the attack, Tata Martino opted to sub in Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez (in his first action in three months) in the 63rd minute. But after the Fire missed several chances to add to their first half goal and left the door open for Atlanta, they finally broke through in the 70th. Tyrone Mears was called for a hand ball in the box near the post, and Nicolic beat Alec Kann cleanly on the resulting penalty to make it 2-0. Atlanta’s best chances came with a shot in the area by Brandon Vazquez in the 85th that sailed just over the bar, and on Martinez’ injury time attempt that was blocked. Other than that, there wasn’t too much to draw from for Atlanta offensively as poor backline play and an inability to get a competent offensive flow going (despite twelve shots, only two were on frame) saw Chicago grab their sixth straight victory at home.
It’s a quick turnaround for Atlanta as they open U.S. Open Cup play this Wednesday along with Chicago and the rest of the U.S. based MLS teams. United host their USL affiliate, the Charleston Battery, at Fifth Third Bank Field in Kennesaw at 7:30pm. It’s likely that more of a few members of Atlanta’s normal starting XI won’t see a great deal of time, if at all, with their next league match coming on Saturday against Columbus Crew SC at Bobby Dodd Stadium.