Match Recap

Atlanta United falls at Toronto FC 2-0 


Following back-to-back wins at home, Atlanta United looked to continue their success north of the border for the first matchup of the season with Eastern Conference opponent Toronto FC. With snow earlier in the day and temperatures hovering around freezing during the match, it was a chilly evening at BMO Field for the 5-Stripes, who were missing several key players due to international duty, as Atlanta United dropped a result on the road 2-0.

“You can always find those types of excuses after the game. You can say that we maybe were lacking a little bit of quality, but for me those are excuses," head coach Gonzalo Pineda said in his post-match press conference. "We were prepared to do a good game. In some moments, we did an okay job. In certain moments we were a little bit that change of pace and that intensity in the final third. A couple things that were maybe missing, but congrats to Toronto. They deserved the victory."

The home side took three shots in the opening 12 minutes of action, then the first genuine opportunity of the match for Atlanta arrived in the 13th minute. The visitors took advantage of some miscommunication as the Reds attempted to play out of the back. Tyler Wolff intercepted a pass and found Saba Lobjanidze inside of the box. The Georgian made a firm volley with his first touch, in what would’ve been a fantastic finish for Atlanta United, but the shot went wide of goal.

After a few minutes pushing their attack, Toronto FC was indeed the first to score. In the 35th minute, following a combination play, Tyrese Spicer slotted a shot into the lower corner of the net, giving the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft his first professional goal.

"I don’t think it was as sharp as it could have been," Atlanta United's Dax McCarty said. "I think that for a group and team that made five or six lineup changes, for the most part we started the game pretty well. It was a shame to concede the goal when we did, because I thought we started the first 15-20 minutes well. We were comfortable and not under too much pressure and growing into the game."

Atlanta United's veteran goalkeeper Brad Guzan came up with a huge stop to prevent Toronto's second goal in the 43rd minute. On a short corner kick, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi made successive back heel passes to each other before Bernardeschi curled the ball into the box with his left foot. From close range, Toronto put a header on frame, and Atlanta United’s big, bald wall reacted quickly to block the shot.

Guzan finished with eight saves on the night, including a great diving stop in the 89th minute and a sliding stop in second-half stoppage time to prevent a late goal from Bernardeschi.

One of the best attacking chances for Atlanta in the second half occurred in the 50th minute. Brooks Lennon sent a tantalizing cross into the center of the box. Jamal Thiaré, in his first career MLS start, rose for the header and put it on goal. However, Toronto goalkeeper Luka Gavran came up with the save.

"The goal gave them some momentum," McCarty said. "But we go into half down 1-0 and weren’t overly concerned about not getting back into the game. We felt that we would get chances and it was just a matter of putting one away."

Lobjanidze would have another good chance in the second half for Atlanta United. After a quick throw-in from Xande Silva, who came on in the second half as a substitute, Tristan Muyumba had some space to carry the ball toward goal. The ball was laid off for Saba, who was in the area. The winger’s shot in the 66th minute was deflected for an Atlanta United corner kick.

Toronto would put the visitors in a two-goal deficit in 71st minute. After some sloppy passes from Atlanta United in their defensive half, the Reds regained possession. Guzan blocked an initial shot, however the rebound fell to Prince Owusu. who put it away to make the scoreline 2-0.

The question heading into Saturday's match was how Atlanta United would look with six players, including the team's scoring leader Giorgos Giakoumakis, currently away on international duty. Stian Gregersen, who started and played a full 90 in all of Atlanta United's matches thus far, was out due to a knee injury. So, Saturday meant an opportunity for several players to see increased minutes. Noah Cobb, 18 years old, paired up with starter Derrick Williams at center back. Ronald Hernández filled in on the backline. Dax McCarty, Nick Firmino, Tyler Wolff and Jamal Thiaré also earned their first regular season starts of the year.

"That's what we had available," Pineda said. "Also, we had faith in all the players who came in. Even now, I’m proud of the effort they put in. Even at 2-0 down, they kept fighting and created a couple of half chances. They continued to sprint in behind, make some crosses. We fought until the end. Again, I believe in them regardless of the result. We need to continue working and be better."

Match Stats
Toronto FC
Atlanta United
Shots on target
Corner kicks
Fouls committed
Passing accuracy

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