Atlanta United’s hunt for a Eastern Conference playoff position took another blow after the Five Stripes latest 2-1 road loss to CF Montreal at Stade Saputo on Saturday. A pair of halftime Atlanta United substitutes, Jake Mulraney and Luiz Araujo, combined to open the scoring in the 48th minute, but Montreal immediately responded with a well worked, close range strike from Montreal’s Romell Quioto. Quioto got his second of the match after converting a penalty kick in the the 55th minute.
Instant response for Montreal!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 3, 2021
Romell Quioto with the power . pic.twitter.com/EtoqdMMTDI
Atlanta United created six shots during the first half, though the first shot on target from either team didn't present itself until the 38th minute when Ezequiel Barco nearly volleyed the ball past Montreal goalkeeper James Pantemis. Then in the 45th minute, Barco took the ball into his stride and did this:
Before this play, you could see Josef laboring and struggling to get moving, and Josef was nowhere to be seen while Atlanta United was breaking during that move. From first look, it appeared that he once again tweaked his knee, which we all know has been a major source of pain and unease for the striker for over a year now. Pineda took Josef off at halftime.
Atlanta United took its time to grow into the game. From the jump, the Five Stripes were pressing high up the pitch and were able to create turnovers. But once Atlanta got the ball and got the ball forward, it all seemed to die in the final third whether that was due to a bad touch, a lack of numbers, or poor decision making. As the first half wore on, Atlanta managed to utilize the ball more effectively, but the first half ended 0-0.
Then the second half exploded into life, and Atlanta couldn't cope with Montreal. The xG numbers are... well, just look for yourself.
Look, it wasn't the Philadelphia game at least. It wasn't great, but at least it wasn’t that. However, it is unfortunate to see Atlanta play at this level after the team was flying under Pineda for that stretch of games.
While this result obviously isn’t ideal, Atlanta is most certainly still in the mix for a playoff spot. Results around the league could see Atlanta finish the night outside of the playoff spots, there are six more games left to play. Those games are against Toronto, NYCFC, Miami, Toronto again, New York Red Bulls, and FC Cincinnati. Winning the three remaining home games against NYCFC, Miami and Toronto (the second meeting in the final stretch) is a must. Getting away results against Toronto and Cincinnati also feels like a must moving forward.
Pineda and his players now have two weeks to prepare for the team’s next match, an away trip to Toronto FC, who are battling it out with FC Cincinnati at the basement of the Eastern Conference standings. Though Atlanta now has two weeks to rest and prepare for the remaining six games of the regular season, Pineda will be without Miles Robinson and George Bello. Those two will be away with the United States in its World Cup Qualifying campaign.