Josef Martínez made his first appearance since April 2, but his return wasn’t enough for Atlanta United to climb out of a two-goal deficit and the home side lost 2-1 to Columbus Crew on Saturday.
With the result, Atlanta United’s home unbeaten streak ends at 13.
Entering Saturday, Columbus Crew had failed to score in six of their last eight matches. However, the visiting team got on the board fast against Atlanta. In the first minute, defender Jonathan Mensah scored a header on a corner kick to put Columbus ahead 1-0. Defender Pedro Santos was credited with the assist.
"I felt that we had a good performance in the sense that we created enough chances to win again, I felt like we did everything there, but we don't put the attention in when the score is 0-0," head coach Gonzalo Pineda said. "So when we're not in urgency where we're not losing, it seems like we don't really pay attention to those little details. So we need to re-emphasize that in the training sessions."
The play took down Atlanta United defender Ronald Hernández, and he was subbed off in the sixth minute for Mikey Ambrose. It was Ambrose’s first appearance for the first team this season.
Atlanta United nearly answered in the ninth minute on a corner kick of their own. Defender Alex De John put a header on frame, but Columbus goalkeeper Eloy Room made a diving save to prevent Atlanta from finding the early equalizer.
Columbus scored again in the 45th minute to give the visitors a two-goal lead. The Crew capitalized on a rapidly progressing play that left Erik Hurtado in a 1-v-1 situation with De John. The forward cut the ball to find space and knocked a nicely placed shot into goal past Atlanta United keeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
Luiz Araújo made a beautiful play to create one of Atlanta United’s 12 shots in the first half. Inside the box, the Brazilian attacker delivered a nice back-heel pass through traffic. The ball was right on point to defender Brooks Lennon, who took a shot at a difficult angle that required a save.
At halftime, Martínez entered the match as a substitute. It was the striker’s first appearance since April 2 in the 1-0 win over D.C. United. He missed time after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean out some debris in his right knee.
In Saturday's match, he played a full half.
"Today, I feel good, I feel happy to be back in the locker room with them," Martínez said. "Obviously not the best result, but it's soccer. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. We created a lot of chances. We have to improve because we concede a lot of goals, easy goals. Then, we have to keep going. The season is still far."
Atlanta United scored in the 92nd minute on a superb finish from striker Dom Dwyer. Defender Alan Franco served a header into the six-yard box and Dwyer connected with a skillful bicycle kick. The goal sent the 5-Stripes into a frenzy to find the late equalizer, but ultimately Atlanta United fell short.
"We have had good performances in tough places to play, and we are not getting the results," Pineda said. "So for me, this is going to be the moment where we are going to regroup and we're going to re-emphasize the importance of every play. And whoever is ready to play up to that standard is going to start for my team."
Following Dwyer's goal, Pineda was given a red card and ejected. Thiago Almada also received a red card and will miss the next MLS match.
On Saturday, both teams wore Primeblue kits made with Parley Ocean Plastic. The jerseys are made of recycled materials and represent the league’s commitment to water conservation. Atlanta wore electric blue and Columbus wore white.
Prior to the national anthem, the stadium observed a moment of silence for the victims of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas and their families.
Atlanta United will have a few weeks off as it heads into the international break. The club returns to action on June 14 when it hosts CF Pachuca at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the inaugural American Family Insurance Cup. Then, Atlanta United returns to MLS play on June 19 when it hosts Inter Miami CF.
"The frustration is about I can see all the effort that my players are putting in every training session," Pineda said. "I can see the effort in every game. They play good football the way they're creating enough chances and then we're not getting the results. So, we talk about in the week about what are we missing. Why are good performances, good attitude, good football, we're not getting the points. And we're going to find that through hard work."
Highlights: Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew | May 28, 2022