Despite creating 19 shots and playing its best game of the season so far, Atlanta United and interim head coach Rob Valentino fell to Caleb Porter’s Columbus Crew 1-0 in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.
“I feel bad for [the fans], because we talked a lot about them before the game, about putting on a performance that would make them proud... and I’m disappointed for them,” said Valentino. “As long as I’m in the position to help, I’ll make sure that message is driven.”
Atlanta United opened the game brightly, going forward and nearly getting a goal in the opening two minutes. Josef Martinez, who made his first start since Gabriel Heinze left the club, was heavily involved in the buildup to the chance. Jake Mulraney probably should have scored this chance.
I think it’s fair to say that move was indication of what was to come for the rest of the half. Atlanta was lively and actually wanted to go forward and attack. It was beautiful.
That attacking mindset resulted in moves like these.
Erik Lopez probably should have finished that.
On the stat sheet, Atlanta United outperformed Columbus in the first half. The Five Stripes created eight shots to Columbus’ four. It was another bright sign that the New Manager Bump is positively impacting Atlanta United. The xg numbers looked pretty good during the first half too.
The first half wasn’t all Atlanta though. A couple of last minute interventions were required from Jake Mulraney and Alan Franco to keep Columbus from taking an early lead. Erik Hurtado also hilariously missed the target from inside the penalty area. See the #33 on the shot map? That’s that effort.
About 10 minutes into the second half, Marcelino Moreno nearly scored this amazing effort.
Then the Crew knocked in the opening goal of the game. Jonathan Mensah headed the ball onto Anton Walkes and past Alec Kann.
“They like to look for that near post and flick it onto the back post.,” Lennon said. “We watched that on video all week. so really gut wrenching to concede that way because we studied that. [It was] really a punch in the gut.”
The closing stages were kind of hectic. Atlanta probably could have gotten a goal. Columbus probably could have added on another. In the end, Atlanta couldn’t get one past Columbus goalkeeper Eloy Room and the game finished 1-0 to Columbus.
Despite Atlanta picking up another loss, there are positives to take away from this match. Firstly, it was just more entertaining to watch than the vast majority of matches Atlanta United has played in this season. The chances were there, but no one could finish and of course that was always going to come back to haunt Atlanta United.
The New Manager Bump is very much real and Atlanta United is continuing to ride that wave. Atlanta can probably consider itself unlucky to walk away with nothing from this match. The full time xG numbers are pretty indicative of that.
Josef is back. Maybe not back back. but he’s back in the lineup and played 90 minutes for the first time since Atlanta’s 2-2- draw with Nashville back in May. With more chances being created, you have to think that Josef will eventually find himself putting some shots in the back of the net. He almost did today. Josef also dropped in and helped with the buildup, creating three chances and taking two shots.
“If he feels he wants to come under the ball and be a link up player, he’s gonna do that,” Walkes said. “Nine times out of ten today when he [did] that, I looked at him afterwards, he made [it to] the box. That’s always a good sign. All due credit to him, he seemed to be getting to the right areas and chances will come. We’re looking forward to that.”
Considering how things were going before the Cincinnati game, these last two performances should give Atlanta fans at least a little hope. If the current trend continues, the chances will continue to pop up for Atlanta and eventually be put away. At this point, that’s all one can really hope for.
The squad will get Sunday off to rest and recharge before preparing for Atlanta United’s away game against Orlando City next Friday at Exploria Stadium. At the time of publishing, Orlando City is second in the Eastern Conference. Óscar Parejas squad faces off against NYCFC tomorrow at 6 p.m.
Also, Kanye West. Why is he like this.