Atlanta United went on the road to take on Western Conference opponent FC Dallas. Deep in the heart of Texas, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Saba Lobjanidze each scored a goal for Atlanta United, but the visitors also conceded twice and the two teams with postseason hopes played to an entertaining 2-2 draw at Toyota Stadium.
With the tie, Atlanta United gains one point in the table and brings the club's total to 42 on the season with six matches remaining. The 5-Stripes are in sixth place and five points out of the second spot in the Eastern Conference.
"I think we did enough to win this game, but at the same time we made a few mistakes that didn't help us to consolidate the three points," Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said in his postgame press conference.
FC Dallas jumped out to a quick and early lead. Dallas forward Jesús Ferreira applied heavy pressure on Atlanta United center back Miles Robinson, who was defending the ball to let it roll out at the end line for a goal kick. Ferreira won the battle between the two American internationals and poked the ball toward the center of the box. Forward Paul Arriola was in the right spot to hit a right-footed shot past Brad Guzan and give FC Dallas the opener in the fourth minute.
Forty minutes later, Atlanta United found the equalizer. Thiago Almada sent a ball over the backline to the far post. Giakoumakis rose above two FC Dallas defenders closely marking him to get his head on Almada's pass. The header arched over Dallas goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer and into the net, bringing the visitors even 1-1 in the 44th minute.
The goal marked significant milestones for both Almada and Giakoumakis. It was the 13th for Giakoumakis this season, which for the moment tied him even with Hany Mukhtar of Nashville SC and Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati in the race for the Golden Boot. (Mukhtar scored on a PK in stoppage time during Nashville's game Saturday to regain sole lead with 14 goals.) On the assist, Almada now has 14, which ties him with Miguel Almirón and Julian Gressel for the club's single-season record. The goal was the 50th on the season for the 5-Stripes.
"To have a lot of quality around a good finisher is always a good formula," Pineda said.
Lobjanidze scored the go-ahead goal for Atlanta United in the 58th minute. Playing off space created from fullback Brooks Lennon's diagonal run, the Georgian international took his defender 1v1 and made room for himself at the top of the 18-yard box to rip a shot on his left foot. Santiago Sosa started the play, switching the ball to Lobjanidze, and was credited with the assist. It was the second goal for Lobjanidze in three matches since the winger joined the club during the summer transfer window.
"Two goals in a week is very good, so I'm happy with the production that Saba is having," Pineda said. "He's always willing to attack. The aggression that I need in that part of the field is very clean, technically. On that side, paired with Brooks, he's going to give us a lot, and I was very happy. He's a player that maybe disappeared for a little bit in the second half, but then the moment he has a chance, he's very clinical. That's why we brought him because we know he's going to impact many, many games for us."
However, Atlanta United's one-goal lead didn't hold for long. Minutes after Pineda made a pair of substitutions, sending on Xande Silva and Miguel Berry, FC Dallas turned and equalized with a goal in the 62nd minute. José Martínez played a long ball over the top for Bernard Kamungo. The Tanzanian refugee chipped it over Guzan, who had come off his line to attempt to deflect the shot, and equalized the match at 2-2.
The home side appeared to go ahead in the 76th minute on a header from Marco Farfan after FC Dallas chased down a loose ball heading toward the corner and played it back into the box. However, after VAR the goal was called back due to offsides on the initial pass in.
After putting out a consistent lineup for the previous three matches, Pineda switched things up a bit Saturday night. Designated player Lobjanidze made his first career MLS start. Tyler Wolff and Santiago Sosa both appeared in the starting lineup for the first time since July. Tristan Muyumba didn't start the match but entered as a substitute at halftime.
Atlanta United has now earned a result in both of their last two road matches, going back to the 2-0 win at Seattle on August 20. It's also the second consecutive match that Atlanta United has given up a lead to an MLS opponent. Earlier this week, the 5-Stripes scored early then conceded two second-half goals to Supporters' Shield contenders FC Cincinnati. With two weeks before the club's next MLS match, Pineda said that finding ways to finish out games will be top of mind during the time off as Atlanta United heads into the final stretch of the schedule.
"How we do, what we have to do, what's the mentality once we're winning, those are good questions to solve in the next few days," Pineda said. "I hope this break helps us, same as after Leagues Cup. That off time helps us to rebuild a few things, fix a couple other things, and then we go one step higher in the performance of the team."
Up next - The September international break then Atlanta United hosts Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF
This is the last match for Atlanta United before the September FIFA international window. Here's how to watch and follow along with the 5-Stripes who were called up to play for their home countries.
After that, Atlanta United hosts Lionel Messi and Inter Miami CF for Latin Heritage Night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16. It's going to be one of the biggest games of the season, against one of the world's biggest soccer stars, so mark your calendars.