Another familiar face spelled defeat for Atlanta United after it fell to Charlotte FC by a 3-1 score at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.
The loss snaps the Five Stripes’ unbeaten home record and goes down as a fourth consecutive loss across all competitions. Atlanta’s MLS record now stands at 5-3-4 with the same 18 points it has carried since April 23 when it defeated Chicago Fire.
Atlanta United’s starting lineup was almost exactly the same one that fell to Inter Miami last weekend, with Miguel Berry being the lone change at striker over Machop Chol. This was Berry’s fourth start for the Five Stripes, who hold a 1-1-2 record this season when the Spaniard leads the line.
The other big news is the return of Giorgos Giakoumakis, the Greek striker who has scored a goal in each of his five starts for Atlanta United this season, from a hamstring injury. He was available off the bench in this match.
Tonight's Starting XI for the Red & Black ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/PYFdIVOdfw— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) May 13, 2023
Atlanta United began the match with an energy that was mostly absent from its previous three matches. It created two shots, one on target and one off target, in the first 16 minutes and created 0.22 expected goals.
The opening goal went against the run of play after Ashley Westwood played a cross to Atlanta’s far post to a waiting Justin Meram who was all alone to finish it off and put his former club behind 1-0 in the 17th minute.
After conceding, Atlanta United’s confidence completely evaporated and the attacking ideas went out the window. Despite managing to get four more shots in the first 45 minutes, none of them were on target. With its undefeated home record threatened at the hands of a conference rival, Atlanta United had all to do in the second half as it found itself behind by a score of 1-0.
Atlanta’s situation only worsened in the second half, however, after referee Lukasz Szpala was called to the VAR monitor and, after a lengthy check, awarded a penalty kick to Charlotte and issued a red card to Atlanta United defender Andrew Gutman in the 52nd minute. Karol Swiderski stepped up to take the spot kick and converted it to score his third goal of the season. Down a man and two goals, things were only getting more dire for the Five Stripes.
Five minutes later, Meram scored Charlotte’s third after receiving the ball in the center of the box from a Kamil Jozwiak cross and slotting it past Quinten Westberg to seal a brace for himself. That goal makes it the second week in a row that a former player scores a brace on Atlanta United after Josef Martínez’s double last week. The score was 3-0 after 57 minutes and threatening to get even uglier for the hosts.
The Five Stripes managed a consolation goal in the 85th minute courtesy of a Juanjo Purata header from a corner. It was the same sort of goal that they scored in Miami where the ball was delivered to the near post to a player who just nicked it enough to put it in the back of the net. With the game rapidly concluding, Atlanta United found itself on the scoreboard but still behind by two goals.
86' | AIR FORCE JUAN PUTS IT IN THE NET✈️#WeAreTheA 1-3 #ForTheCrown pic.twitter.com/aq6TsLEF1u— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) May 14, 2023
Ultimately, the deficit in both goals and manpower proved too much for Atlanta United, who was unable to further alter the 3-1 scoreline before the final whistle.
Much of the same unimaginative and uninspiring play that has plagued the team the past three games showed up here after the first concession. Atlanta United displayed a frustrating passiveness to attack and there seemed to be no cohesion between the players, allowing a Charlotte side with notable absences to tear them apart all too easily.
The Five Stripes now prepare to take on the Colorado Rapids at home on Wednesday without Gutman as he serves his red card suspension.
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