Atlanta United made its second consecutive road trip on Sunday to face its final Western Conference opponent of the regular season. On a bright day at Providence Park, two penalty kicks converted by the home side were the difference, and Atlanta United fell 2-1.
First half – Raúl Gudiño makes his debut, Portland scores on a penalty kick
The main storyline for Atlanta United was the switch at starting goalkeeper. Head coach Gonzalo Pineda gave the nod to Raúl Gudiño, the 6-foot-5 keeper from Guadalajara, Mexico who joined the club in June. He replaces Rocco Ríos Novo who has made 15 consecutive starts for Atlanta in MLS play. Gudiño makes his first career MLS start and is the fourth different goalkeeper to start for Atlanta United this season.
Atlanta United was on the attack early, beginning with the opening kickoff when the team took the ball down the field into the box. Through the first 15 minutes, both teams felt the game out. Gradually, Portland increased their press. The home side took the first three shots and two corner kicks of the match, testing Atlanta United’s fresh goalkeeper. In the 22nd minute, Portland was awarded a penalty right on the line of the 18-yard box. Midfielder Sebastián Blanco sent a rocket toward goal, but the shot went over the crossbar.
Portland had a dangerous moment in the 29th minute. Atlanta center back Juanjo Purata went down toward the middle of the pitch, giving the Atlanta United backline pause. However, play continued and Portland brought the ball down the pitch. Winger Yimmi Chara got a shot off from the center of the box, but it missed. Purata, appeared okay, returned to the play for Atlanta.
On the following play, Atlanta United had its best look of the first half. Thiago Almada pressured Portland's backline to create a takeaway. In a rapid counterattack, Santiago Sosa fed the ball to Luiz Araújo making a vertical run. Araújo’s shot on goal was blocked, but the ball bounced toward the area of Ronaldo Cisneros. The striker appeared to have some space on the rebound, but his shot curved wide.
After a wild sequence that left Atlanta United scrambling to clear the ball out of its own box, a foul was called and Portland was awarded a penalty kick. The spot put Gudiño to the test in his MLS debut. Midfielder Santiago Moreno took care of business and sank the shot in upper left corner of the net. With the goal, Portland earned a 1-0 lead and converted their ninth penalty kicks in 10 attempts this season.
Second half – Josef Martínez scores as a sub, Portland Timbers converts second penalty kick of the match
The second half started with a substitution for Atlanta United. Amar Sejdić entered the match for Franco Ibarra.
In the 57th minute, Portland Timbers created a dangerous opportunity on a rapid fast break. After receiving the ball over the top, forward Dairon Asprilla shot off a great strike. Gudiño blocked the shot to come up with his first save on the day and keep Atlanta United within striking distance.
Pineda made more second-half substitutions in the 63rd minute. Edwin Mosquera and Josef Martínez entered the match, replacing Cisneros and Caleb Wiley.
In what looked like one of Atlanta United’s better chances of the second half in the 74th minute, the team transitioned quickly after getting a stop in their defensive third. Almada carried the ball up the pitch and dished to Araújo. The ball made it out wide to Mosquera. The winger made some moves on the flank then sent a low cross to Araújo’s diagonal run inside the box. Araújo was open, but Portland’s defense cleared it away just as the Brazilian was winding up for a shot.
After an Atlanta giveaway in the midfield, Portland regained possession and attacked. On a give-and-go, midfielder Diego Chara was on the receiving end of a hard foul from Sosa and earned a second penalty kick of the match for the Timbers. Asprilla stepped up to the spot and nailed the shot down the middle in the 81st minute. Portland went ahead 2-0.
In the 87th minute, Marcelino Moreno and Machop Chol entered the match for Araújo and Sosa.
Two of the second-half subs combined in the 88th minute to give Atlanta United some hope. On a corner kick from Moreno, Martínez leapt and headed it in to cut Atlanta’s deficit to one.
With the score at 2-1, it felt like a desperate frenzy in the match’s final minutes. Atlanta United pressed to find the equalizer at Providence Park. The situation even brought Gudiño out of goal on a corner kick for Atlanta United. The goalkeeper got his head on the ball, but it went a little wide of the frame.
In the end, Atlanta United only put two shots total on goal and the Portland Timbers held on to defeat the visitors 2-1 at Providence Park.
Up next – Atlanta United plays at home on September 10
Atlanta United returns to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for an Eastern Conference matchup with Toronto FC. It’s our Unite & Conquer Cancer match, so don’t miss it and secure your seat today.