Atlanta United continued its double matchweek with an Eastern Conference meeting with Chicago Fire at Soldier Field. It was a wild night in the Windy City as two red cards were shown, one for each side, and six goals were scored in a match that went back-and-forth. Andrew Gutman, wearing the captain's armband for the first time, and halftime sub Giorgos Giakoumakis were the goal scorers for Atlanta United as the visitors played Chicago Fire to a 3-3 draw to secure a result on the road.
The Fire went down to 10 men in the 26th minute with the match scoreless, and Atlanta United immediately took advantage. The sequence started when pressure from Atlanta United forced a giveaway that was recovered by Miguel Berry. On the dribble, the striker was clipped from behind, resulting in Chicago midfielder Federico Navarro's second yellow card of the night. Navarro was shown a red card then exited the match, leaving Chicago with 10 men on the field. Atlanta United was awarded a direct free kick right near the edge of the 18-yard box, taken by Thiago Almada. His low, driven shot was initially blocked by Chicago goalkeeper Chris Brady but Gutman cleaned up the rebound to put the visitors on the board 1-0 in the 29th minute.
“Right place, right time," Gutman said. "I kind of had a feeling that Thiago might go back post. And whenever you go back post, the only thing the keeper can do with the way he hits it is kind of push it, so I just tried to position myself there and it fell right to me and I just had to tap it in.”
Chicago answered on a corner kick in the 42nd minute. Xherdan Shaqiri at the right corner flag curled the ball near post with his left foot. Atlanta United goalkeeper Quentin Westberg got his hands on the ball, but the block ricocheted off the back of his center back Juanjo Purata, who was in the area trying to make a clearance with his head. The bounce trickled over the goal line for an Atlanta own goal that equalized the match 1-1.
Chicago Fire, with just 10 men on the field, scored their second goal in the 49th minute. Chicago striker Kacper Przybyłko posted up inside the box, positioned with his back to goal. He brought down a pass with his chest that midfielder Maren Haile-Selassie could run onto. Haile-Selassie's one-touch strike was driven low and evaded Westberg's diving attempt. The home team took their first lead of the night.
"It came from a throw-in and we’re not ready for that throw-in. And then it’s so easy. It’s so simple. A throw-in, a long switch, received with the chest inside the box, no pressure at all and then no closing down the opponent, no blocking shots which is something that we message very often. So, frustrated with that one," Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said.
Atlanta United answered right back with a goal in the 55th minute to make it a 2-2 match. Winger Derrick Etienne Jr. pivoted to move the ball from one side to the other, feeding it to to Ronald Hernández on the right. The fullback, who made his second consecutive start Saturday, crossed the ball long all the way to the far post. Gutman was there to head it down to Giorgos Giakoumakis, who had entered the match at halftime as a substitute for Berry. The striker knocked it home for his seventh goal in 10 MLS appearances.
Then, Giakoumakis broke the 2-2 deadlock for his brace on the night. Almada, who was played quickly from Gutman, fed the striker a through ball. Giakoumakis cut to avoid Brady coming off his line and scored with his left foot. The flag came up, so the striker was initially ruled offside on the play. However, VAR overturned the initial call and the goal was allowed, which gave Atlanta United the go-ahead goal in the 64th minute.
The final 20 minutes of the match were played even with 10 men on each side because Atlanta United's Luiz Araújo also received a second yellow card. The red card came in the 71st minute, and Araújo will miss Atlanta's next match against Orlando City.
A wild night in the Windy City ended with the equalizer from Chicago Fire in the 89th minute. Miguel Navarro sent a left-footed cross to the far side that trickled through a crowded box to Haile-Selassie. The midfielder tapped it to Georgios Koutsias who was able to poke it past Westberg and even the match 3-3.
"To me, we couldn’t punish them when we had good chances. We had a few good chances and we couldn’t finish that. And we are giving away soft goals that I’m not happy with," Pineda said.
Almada twice had a chance at his fourth goal of the season on a direct free kick. The first came right before halftime. From about 25 yards out, Almada, one of the best free kick takers in the league, put a shot on frame that was dipping just below the crossbar. Brady made the jump to punch it away and the play resulted in an Atlanta United corner kick. The scene closely repeated in the 59th minute with another direct free kick from Almada. The World Cup winner put his shot on frame, but Brady pushed it over the crossbar for another Atlanta United corner.
Chicago nearly opened the scoring in the 13th minute when Shaqiri engineered a rapid attack. The midfielder dribbled the ball up the pitch then dished it wide to Haile-Selassie. The midfielder's cross arrived directly to Rafael Czichos on the far post. The center back hit a clean strike that clanged off the crossbar.
Minutes later, Atlanta United had a chance of their own. Araújo cut back to pass to Hernández making an overlapping run on the right side of the 18-yard box. The centered pass from Hernández found Almada open near the penalty spot, but the midfielder's contact wasn't quite there and the shot sailed high over goal. Almada pounded the turf in frustration, seeing a missed chance to open the scoring.
“It’s like sink or swim," Gutman said. "If we don’t develop it, then it’s going to turn into something like last year. But like I said, there are guys in the locker room who realize what’s going on, that have the willingness and desire and awareness to change and I think we will change."
The starting lineup Saturday looked a little different for Pineda. Luis Abram made his first MLS start at center back, giving Miles Robinson some rest, and Hernández got the nod at right fullback. Gutman, who missed the Colorado Rapids match Wednesday due to a red card suspension, returned and wore the captain's armband for the first time. Giakoumakis started the match on the bench and came on at halftime.
Up next - Atlanta United on the road against Orlando City
The 5-Stripes have a full week before their next match, which is also away. On Saturday, May 27, Atlanta United travels to Florida to take on Orlando City SC. It's the first meeting of the season between the two Eastern Conference foes, and with Orlando's win Saturday they'll enter the contest three points separated in the table.
Match Highlights: Chicago Fire vs. Atlanta United | May 20, 2023