Atlanta United battled back from a first-half deficit to even the score in Salt Lake City, but a stoppage-time goal from the hosts sends the red, black and gold home from their road trip on a disappointing loss.
Atlanta United’s Frank de Boer brought some fresh legs in to deal with the churn of a congested May, with Pity Martinez and Franco Escobar given the night off to rest. That meant Michael Parkhurst came in at right back with Dion Pereira getting his first start in Atlanta United colors. The full starting XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Brek Shea (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Michael Parkhurst (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Eric Remedi (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CAM), Dion Pereira (LW), Josef Martinez (ST), Julian Gressel (RW).
Atlanta United started positively, with their first chance of the night coming just three minutes into the match. Josef Martinez showed great hold-up play to beat his man and spin a lofted pass into the path of Julian Gressel, but the German’s shot was straight at the goalkeeper. After a couple half-chances for both sides, it was the hosts that struck first. In the 36th minute, Bofo Saucedo found a pocket of space on the left wing, cut inside and curled an unstoppable effort from distance to take the lead into the half.
Atlanta United came out of the half looking for vengeance, fighting back into the match with the end of their road trip 45 minutes away. Pity Martinez and Franco Escobar added an instant spark off the bench, and it was that combination that got Atlanta United back on the board for an equalizer. Pity got the ball a yard off the right touchline and played a low through ball into the feet of Franco Escobar, who showed excellent control to push past the defense. Josef Martinez smelled the chance and came charging into the box –– and Franco’s layoff was perfect for the Venezuelan to slam home from close range.
Atlanta United was in the ascendancy after that, pouring pressure on the RSL back line in search of a winner. With the clock ticking past the 93 minute mark, it seemed they had done enough to secure a hard-fought comeback road point. Unfortunately there was another moment of skill left, with Jefferson Savarino’s long-range shot swerving inside the post from distance, making it 2-1 with the last kick of the match.
Despite the loss, Atlanta United remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference at the time of the final whistle, and they’ll be eager to get back home in front of the 17s the next time out. They now travel back to Atlanta, where they will face Minnesota United on Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with a chance to stop the skid and continue their climb up the Eastern Conference standings. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure you’ve secured yours here.