Match Recap

Atlanta United drops season opener 1-0 to defending MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew


Atlanta United's 2024 season kicked off Saturday on the road in an intense environment at Field against Columbus Crew. A snowstorm in the morning cleared in time for the match as Atlanta United fell to the defending MLS Cup Champions 1-0 on a cold afternoon in Ohio.

The match began with last season's possession leaders looking to assert themselves. About 25 minutes in, the possession battle shifted and Columbus started finding space on the wings, which led to back-to-back corner kicks then the opening goal. After a long switch, Diego Rossi received a vertical pass down the sideline that he played into the box. A deflection made its way to Cucho Hernández open on the back post. Last year's leading scorer for Columbus finished it off in the 27th minute.

"The pressing moments were very good," Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said in his postmatch press conference. "We were pressing actually pretty well against Columbus, but after we gained the ball we were not connecting the passes. We were lacking a little bit of just either connecting forward or securing the possession for a bit longer."

Down a goal, Atlanta United came out firing in the opening minutes of the second half. Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis combined and Giakoumakis fired a shot that went high. Columbus transitioned quickly and charged up the pitch on a breakaway that led to three Atlanta defenders chasing from behind. After a lengthy VAR, Atlanta United center back Stian Gregersen was called for a foul on the play inside the box and Columbus was awarded a penalty kick.

Cucho picked out a low spot, and Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan read it perfectly to make a brilliant save on the PK and keep Atlanta in the game.

"He's a guy that can go both ways, he can go to the keeper's left or the keeper's right," Guzan said. "Fortunately for me, I was able to go the right way and make the save. We were able to clean up the seconds in and around the box and clear the ball."

Gregersen along with Derrick Williams paired up as the center backs for Atlanta United and stayed busy in their club debuts. Williams ended up blocking a shot in the 24th minute and made a long recovery to deny what nearly was Cucho’s second goal of the afternoon in the 33rd minute. Atlanta United blocked six shots taken by the Crew, all in the first half, and was outshot 16-6 on the day, 12-1 in the first 45 minutes.

Roughly 17 years separated the starting goalkeepers for each side. For Columbus, 22-year-old Patrick Schulte earned the start. Pineda went with veteran and longtime captain Guzan. Atlanta's big, bald wall was called into action early in the match. In the eighth minute, Cucho ripped a low-driven shot from about 20 yards out. His shot was on frame, forcing Guzan to make a diving stop. The Atlanta United veteran was able to collect his own block while in play. He finished with two saves on the day.

Atlanta United showed signs of life in the second half as they looked for the equalizer and flipped the possession in their favor. The 5-Stripes earned their first corner kick opportunity of the match in the 62nd minute. Shortly after, Giakoumakis nearly evened the score when Almada turned and played a brilliant through ball to Xande Silva, who touched it to the striker centrally. Giakoumakis tried to flick a shot over-the-top with the outside of his foot, but Schulte made the stop.

"They're obviously a good team, but we had enough opportunities to get something from the game," Guzan said. "When you look back on it, the disappointment is there because we had the opportunity to get something from the game, whether it's a point or going on to win the game. A loss certainly leaves a bitter taste in your mouth after the performance in the second half."

In one of the final opportunities for the 5-Stripes, Almada combined with Tyler Wolff, who came on a substitute in the second half. Receiving the ball back after the 1-2, Almada found enough space to get off a shot that looked like it was on its way. However, a deflection off a Columbus defender spoiled the late equalizer, resulting in an Atlanta corner kick. The 5-Stripes remained scoreless on the day and the 1-0 scoreline held.

"It's not easy to play the champion the first team of the season, and they did a great job," Pineda said. "They [his players] adjusted very well. I like what I see in the locker room, the belief they have in themselves. We lost today. We cannot change that. But, I think especially the second half performance is encouraging. We can build something out of that."

Columbus Crew 
Atlanta United 
Shots on target
Corner kicks
Fouls committed
Passing accuracy

Up next - Atlanta United's home opener on March 9

The 5-Stripes play their home opener on March 9 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when they host New England Revolution.

Leagues Cup

Leagues Cup

All of the clubs from MLS and Liga MX will compete in a completely reimagined Leagues Cup: an annual, month-long tournament that runs from July 26-August 25, 2024.

Resurgens Kit

Resurgens Kit

Blue is a nod to the renewal of Atlanta. Yellow represents Atlanta’s vibrant history and identity. This is Atlanta United's latest community kit.