Atlanta United’s 2-1 loss to D.C. United on Wednesday night was the latest in what has been a fairly empty stretch for the team outside of Bobby Dodd Stadium. Things looked promising in earlier games at Minnesota United and Real Salt Lake where Atlanta combined for nine goals, but finding the net while on the road has proven to be more difficult than anticipated. It’s hurt the Five Stripes in the standings as well: they have managed one point out of a possible fifteen in their last five away matches. Even all three points at Portland instead of a draw would put them in fifth in the standings right now.
To break down the scoring struggles away from the friendly confines of BDS, it’s important to look at the outliers. The club’s 6-1 win at Minnesota came against a Loons side looking for an identity at top flight soccer after making the jump from the NASL. But Minnesota were able to right the ship and have settled in somewhat as the season has progressed (16 GA in their last 11 matches after allowing 18 in their first four). Atlanta would later score three at Real Salt Lake, which kicked off a brutal run of form for RSL that saw them concede thirteen times in a span of four matches.
Outside of that, it’s been hard for Atlanta to find goals on the road lately. Remove the Minnesota and RSL results and Atlanta have only managed seven goals in eight away matches. In their last five matches away from home, they’ve only scored four, a stark contrast to the sixteen goals they’ve scored in six matches at Bobby Dodd. (I’ll throw in the US Open Cup match for kicks, where they scored three, so technically that’s nineteen goals in seven matches in front of a home crowd.) And while the sixteen away goals is second in MLS, it doesn’t look all that impressive when you don’t count Minnesota. Atlanta aren’t like LA Galaxy, who lead in the category with 17 and have scored multiple goals away from StubHub Center on a more consistent basis lately (scoring two or more in four of their last five away matches and a total of twelve in that span).
Missed opportunities like the one at RFK become more critical as the season progresses as teams begin to jockey for playoff positioning. (I guess this piece should be about how D.C. have scored five goals against Atlanta in two matches and just seven goals against everyone else in fourteen matches, but that’s a different topic.) The bad news: with the team alternating home and away dates over the next six league matches (and with them visiting Miami FC in the U.S. Open Cup’s Round of 16), they could find themselves falling further behind the red line as the second half of the season gets underway. The good news: there’s still a great deal of home matches left - especially on the back end of the schedule - and plenty of chances for them to capitalize on the form they’ve been in thus far. (Mercedes-Benz Stadium could very well amplify that.)
Let’s hope that United’s recent cold streak away from Atlanta is just a phase and that they can find more goals on the road before they end up in much deeper trouble.