A nice finish from Marcelino Moreno wasn’t enough for Atlanta United on Saturday as CF Montréal scored a second half goal to win the match 2-1 at Stade Saputo and earn its sixth consecutive result.
Atlanta United got behind early. In the fourth minute, CF Montréal scored on a set piece. Defender Kamal Miller connected on a header at close range. Midfielder Djordje Mihailovic was given the assist.
“The way we try to defend is not conceding a lot of set pieces and having the ball a lot on the opposite half,” head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. “But the few that we are allowing every game become at times dangerous, like in this case.”
In the first half, Atlanta United had two shots on goal that both came from direct free kicks at the top of the box. In the 11th minute, midfielder Thiago Almada opted to hit the ball low on the ground. From a similar distance, Moreno directed a shot on frame through the air in the 32nd minute. Montréal goalkeeper Sebastian Breza came up with saves both times.
Atlanta United evened the score in the 51st minute on a goal in open play. Almada crossed the ball to the opposite side of the box. The deflection landed to Moreno, and the midfielder threaded a shot through a tight window between three defenders and into goal.
It was Moreno’s second goal of the season.
CF Montréal nearly regained the lead a few minutes later. A corner kick bounced around inside the box and Montréal midfielder Victor Wanyama had a chance, but the 5-Stripes found some luck and defender Andrew Gutman blocked the shot at the goal line.
In the 82nd minute, CF Montréal scored the game-winner. Miller went 1-v-1 and delivered a cross to the near post. Midfielder Joaquín Torres made a run and headed the ball from close range past Atlanta goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth for the goal with seven minutes remaining.
“We played so well for 89 minutes of the game,” Gutman said. “We’re the better team, we’re keeping them pinned in, we’re pushing the tempo, creating chances. We just switch off at a moment and it hurts us.”
Atlanta United had a couple good opportunities in the final minutes. Moreno and Almada connected in the 88th minute on the left side of the pitch. Almada chipped a cross into a Ronaldo Cisneros, but the ball sailed over the striker’s streaking run.
In the 90th minute, defender Brooks Lennon tried to squeeze a shot near post past Breza, but the Montréal goalkeeper made the save. Breza finished with four saves on the day.
The starting lineup saw a few fresh faces, including Luiz Araùjo. The Brazilian forward has played minutes in the previous three matches, and on Saturday made his first start since Atlanta’s MLS home opener on Feb. 27.
Midfielders Matheus Rossetto and Franco Ibarra also made the start for the first time in several matches.
“The team did a lot of good performances individually, some tremendous performances, but then at the end, we fell short,” Pineda said.
The outing is on trend with how Atlanta United has played as of late. The team has outplayed opponents on paper and shown good connections forming, but hasn’t been able to complete a result. Saturday's loss to CF Montréal is Atlanta United’s second straight. The club has scored three goals in its last five MLS matches.
“We’re creating chances, we’re dominating possession, and there are definitely positives to move forward with,” Shuttleworth said. “That being said, there are definitely things that we need to button up and look at and continue to work on in training and try to solve these problems.”
Although Atlanta United finished with an overwhelming part of the possession (62 percent), CF Montréal was a dangerous side. The team is now unbeaten in six consecutive matches. The three points move CF Montréal over Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference standings and into fourth place.
“I don’t think the performance of the team was one that deserved to lose the game,” Pineda said. “We certainly dominated the game. We certainly were in control of the game. But we couldn’t finalize a good result due to the lack of final product in both boxes.”
The match marks the end of a challenging stretch of the schedule for Atlanta United. During the month of April, the club made four road trips and competed in a U.S. Open Cup match. Up next, Atlanta United returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a matchup against Chicago Fire FC on May 7.