Atlanta United played New York City FC to a 1-0 loss Wednesday night at *checks notes Red Bull Arena, home of the New York Red Bulls. The draw moves Atlanta’s record to 2-2-5 and keeps the Five Stripes in 9th place in the Eastern Conference.
Ismael Tajouri-Shradi scored the sole goal of the match in the 68th minute after Miles Robinson errantly gave the ball away as the Five Stripes were attempting to play out of the back.
4 goals in 4 games for @isitj29! @tatycaste11anos sets up Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to break the stalemate for #NYCFC pic.twitter.com/4MeDpmtkPV— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 24, 2021
Atlanta United was without head coach Gabriel Heinze due to yellow card accumulation, which is a real rule and a real thing that happened. However, the head coach felt his absence on the sideline didn’t contribute to Wednesday night’s result.
Heinze said he doesn't think his absence affected his team's energy level or ability to adjust to NYCFC's tactics.— Doug Roberson (@DougRobersonAJC) June 24, 2021
"I'm not that important."#ATLUTD #MLS
Of course, Atlanta is also still without talisman Josef Martinez, who is currently with the Venezuelan national team competing in the Copa America. In his place, 19-year-old Erik Lopez played as the team’s #9. Atlanta also welcomed Jurgen Damm and Mo Adams back to the match day squad after their respective spells on the sidelines due to injury.
Atlanta could also consider itself lucky that center referee Ismail Elfath didn’t brandish his red card at the expense of Erik Lopez, who instead received a yellow card for a rather dangerous foul on a NYCFC player in the 55th minute. There were also shouts for a penalty kick against Atlanta after Robinson went to ground in the penalty area, but in the end it didn’t really matter after NYCFC got the 68th minute goal and saw out the win.
In terms of chance creation, Atlanta United didn’t paint itself in glory. Below are the xG numbers from Wednesday’s game, courtesy of Major League Soccer dot com.
Three times as many shots and a different of 1.9 xG. Yikes.
Considering how dominant NYCFC were in the opening stages (Atlanta only amassed four touches in NYCFC’s defensive half in the opening 10 minutes), it’s somewhat surprising Atlanta only lost the game by one goal. Atlanta started to break out and play, but nothing truly came of it.
Brooks Lennon and Bello, two players that have been credited as bright spots in Heinze’s Atlanta United setup, were the only two players to be credited with creating chances. Lennon finished with three and Bello finished with one. While the pair plays as the Heinze’s fullbacks that come inside and do their thing all over the field, it’s alarming that none of Atlanta’s out-and-out forwards players could contribute to the team in the same way.
“We had a game plan going into it, and I think that probably went out the window relatively quickly,” Guzan said. “In those moments, just the understanding of what’s happening on the field and being able to solve some situations, and we couldn’t solve them.”
There were a few bright moments, like in the 28th minute when George Bello cut inside, drew defenders towards him as he carried the ball and found Erik Lopez in the penalty area for a decent chance to go ahead in the first half. And... that’s all I can remember, really. That game was a drag.
“There’s not just one thing you can put it down to,” Walkes said. “There were times today when I didn’t move it quick enough. There were times when the options weren’t there. There were times when the timing was off, and its just one of those things when you have to work on it and you have to get these relationships right, which today we didn't show.”
Atlanta returns to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday to take on the New York Red Bulls. No matter the result of that match, it’s sure to be another entertaining installment in the rivalry between the two clubs.