Atlanta United traveled to Soldier Field on Saturday for its second consecutive road match and a chance to turn six points in the Eastern Conference table with a matchup against the Chicago Fire. The clubs ended the first half of play scoreless 0-0.
First half – Josef Martínez, Thiago Almada start for Atlanta United
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said there’d be some shifts to the starting XI for this match – and he was right. Josef Martínez and Thiago Almada returned to the starting lineup; both entered the previous two matches against Orlando City and L.A. Galaxy as substitutes. Midfielder Santiago Sosa also returned to the starting XI for the first time since the April 24 match at Inter Miami.
Almada was active early, helping the visiting team create fluidity in the match’s early minutes. He won the ball from Xherdan Shaqiri in the midfield, then picked up his head up and spotted the run of Ronaldo Cisneros. The striker received Almada’s long ball, cut it back and tried to find a streaking Martínez. The result was a corner kick for Atlanta United.
Luiz Araújo created a couple of promising chances for Atlanta United. In the 17th minute, he glided through Chicago Fire’s defense and took the ball all the way into the box. The Fire defense shut down Araújo’s run before he could take a shot. A minute later, Araújo took a curling shot on goal with his left foot that was blocked by 18-year-old goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina. The play was eventually ruled offsides.
In the 26th minute, after a good buildup for Atlanta United, Araújo took the ball down the right flank. His cross was headed away by a Chicago Fire defender, but the ball went dangerously near the net and almost resulted in an own goal.
Starting in the 31st minute, Chicago started finding some success in their attack. They squeezed the ball into dangerous areas twice on consecutive plays. The team followed it up with a corner kick that ended up with Shaqiri taking a shot on goal, but Atlanta United keeper Rocco Ríos Novo made the save. Shaqiri nearly connected again with Chris Mueller, but Sosa disrupted the play and Atlanta United’s backline escaped the first half with a clean sheet.
Atlanta United and Almada had a golden moment on the final play of the first half. A corner kick from Araújo bounced out to Almada at the top of the box. He controlled the ball, then initiated a give-and-go with Cisneros inside the box. Almada had space for a shot on goal, but it went wide and the first 45 ended scoreless.
Second half – VAR reverses Xherdan Shaqiri goal, substitutes enter for Atlanta United
Pineda made one substitution at the half, replacing starter George Campbell with defender Aiden McFadden.
Chicago appeared to take the lead in the 54th minute. Off a throw-in, midfielder Miguel Navarro delivered a ball across the box. Two Atlanta United defenders went up to head the ball, leaving Shaqiri wide open on the far post. The Swiss international finished it off for what looked like the first goal of the day. However, VAR decided Shaqiri was offsides and the goal was disallowed.
In the 75th minute, Pineda subbed off Araújo for Andrew Gutman. It was Gutman’s first appearance since May 21. The defender missed several weeks due to a quadriceps tendon injury.
Looking for the game-winner, Pineda sent on more substitutions in the 81st minute. Dom Dwyer, Franco Ibarra, and Marcelino Moreno entered the match for Cisneros, Matheus Rossetto, and Caleb Wiley. However, neither side could find a goal and the result was a scoreless draw. Atlanta United finished with its fourth clean sheet on the season, its second on the road.
Atlanta United earns a point in the Eastern Conference table and moves to 6-9-7 on the season.
Up next – Atlanta United hosts final full-venue match of the season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
The club returns home on August 6 to face Gonzalo Pineda’s former team, Seattle Sounders. It's a full-venue match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, so secure your seat today and don't miss a moment of the action.