Atlanta United continued their preparations for the MLS season with a miserable 3-1 loss to the Columbus Crew in the opening match of the 2018 Carolina Challenge Cup on Saturday. It was a performance with very few bright spots and a lot of frustration.
The first half got off to a sloppy start for both teams with each side clearly showing that it’s still the middle of preseason. After a slew of giveaways in the back by Atlanta, they conceded the first goal of the match. In the 14th minute, the back line fumbled away the ball right to Federico Higuain in a dangerous spot. He found the overlapping run of Pedro Santos and Portuguese midfielder struck a finish low and hard past Brad Guzan.
Cristian Martinez would make it 2-0 to the Crew in the 34th minute thanks to a sensational goal. Columbus broke through Atlanta’s high press with one pass, finding Martinez in space about 45 yards away from goal. The Panamanian attempted an audacious chip with Guzan off his line that successfully floated over the Atlanta goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
United came out of the halftime break looking better and nearly pulled a goal back less than 10 minutes in as their high press finally paid off. Miguel Almiron benefited from the sloppy play of Columbus, but his point blank shot went high of the mark.
With 20 minutes left, an Atlanta United player would finally find the back of the net. Unfortunately, while trying to defend a corner, Josef Martinez would flick a cross into his own net to make it 3-0 and add to the day’s misery.
Almiron and Martinez would add a consolation goal just before the full-time whistle, combining for a nice one-two combination at the top of the box. Martinez played in Atlanta’s No. 10, he opened his body up and finished nicely past Zack Steffen.
Insert optimistic caveat about it just being preseason here
Up next, Atlanta United continue on in the CCC with a midweek match-up against Minnesota United at 7:30 on Wednesday.