Atlanta United hosted Charlotte FC on Saturday for an Eastern Conference matchup on MLS Rivalry Week. Juanjo Purata scored his first goal of the season with 10 men on the field for Atlanta, but it wasn't enough and the home side lost 3-1.
Atlanta United's lone goal came in the 86th minute when the team was trailing 3-0. On a corner from Thiago Almada, Purata flicked a firm header toward the far post.
It was the first goal of the season for the defender and Almada's seventh assist.
Atlanta United went down to 10 men in the second half when fullback Andrew Gutman was shown a red card for a foul inside the box. Charlotte FC was also awarded a penalty on the call. Striker Karol Swiderski converted the PK to make it 2-0 Charlotte in the 52nd minute.
The opening minutes of the first half belonged to Atlanta, but Charlotte opened the scoring in the 18th minute. In one of their longest stretches of possession in the first half, Charlotte captain Ashley Westwood sent a long cross into the box from the right flank. Midfielder Justin Meram was left open on the far post and finished one-touch to put the visitors ahead 1-0 early.
Charlotte scored their third goal in the 57th minute. Midfielder Kamil Jozwiak slid a simple cross through the box and Meram put it away to secure his brace on the night.
"I have a very good team, and we were playing very good on the ball before the first goal [from Charlotte], but that lack of intensity in key moments of the game put us in tough positions," Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said.
Atlanta United showed some promise in the first 15 minutes of the match, including a golden moment in the third minute. In a strong piece of possession involving several connectors, striker Miguel Berry switched the field to Luiz Araújo. The Brazilian found Brooks Lennon with a through ball on the right flank. Lennon whipped a cross into dangerous territory inside the box, where two Atlanta United players were making runs, but neither could get on the end of it for a shot. Later, Araújo had a chance after receiving a pass from Lennon on the right wing, but Araújo's shot attempt was blocked by Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina.
Caleb Wiley, who scored a brace on Charlotte FC in the first meeting between these two teams, nearly opened the scoring in the seventh minute. Araújo used some fancy footwork to beat his defender 1v1 on the right sideline and centered a cross, touched by Berry, that landed at Wiley’s feet. The Homegrown took a shot one-touch with his left foot but it sailed high.
“There are a couple things to fix before we can focus on the attack," Pineda said. "I think we started the game pretty well, creating three chances, two of which were very clear, before they made it 1-0, and we couldn’t score, but I feel like we are not at the level of intensity that we need to have, both on and off the ball."
Atlanta United striker Giorgos Giakoumakis was available for selection for the first time since sustaining a hamstring injury during the match on the road in Toronto. He entered Saturday's match in the 71st minute, but with Atlanta United down three goals the striker had an uphill climb ahead of him.
The result went a different way than the first time these two teams met. Earlier in the season on March 11, Atlanta United was the side to score three goals, shutting out Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium 3-0. Saturday's loss ended Atlanta United's unbeaten run at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on the season. It's the third straight loss for the 5-Stripes in MLS play.
"We are having a tough period right now, but these periods I think create champions," Giakoumakis said. "If you can come out stronger from this situation that means we are strong. We need to show now to ourselves first of all and our fans that we are really strong and get over this period and come back to the glory days and victories."
Match Highlights: Atlanta United vs. Charlotte FC | May 13, 2023
Up next - Atlanta United hosts Colorado Rapids at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Atlanta United returns home for the first midweek match of the MLS regular season. The 5-Stripes host Western Conference opponent Colorado Rapids on Wednesday, May 17.