A disappointing start to the Atlanta United season, who couldn’t quite shake off the preseason rust and fell 4-0 on the road against the Houston Dynamo.
Tata Martino started much of the team that lined up during preseason, with Franco Escobar and Darlington Nagbe making their official MLS debuts for Atlanta United. Miguel Almirón drifted out left in place of the injured Ezequiel Barco with Julian Gressel taking his spot in the middle, and Michael Parkhurst started the match on the bench as he works his way back to full fitness. The full starting XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Greg Garza (LB), Jeff Larentowicz (CB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Chris McCann (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Miguel Almirón (LW), Julian Gressel (CAM), Tito Villalba (RW), Josef Martinez (ST).
The first half didn’t go as planned for Atlanta, and it started just five minutes into the game. After some early pressure from the Five Stripes, Houston hit a long ball into the path of Alberth Elis at the byline, who beat the Atlanta defense with pace and crossed to Andrew Wenger for a 1-0 tap-in. 18 minutes later, Houston made it two with a short corner routing that was crossed onto the head of Dynamo defender Philippe Senderos, who rose highest at the far post to head home the second.
Things got worse just three minutes later after some nice passing play by the Dynamo just outside the penalty box. Escobar cleaned up with a last-ditch tackle but the ball fell to the feet of Mauro Manotas who hit home into the empty net. And after a mix-up on a cross, Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan swatted the ball into the stride of Darwin Cerén, whose deflected volley found the back of the net. And to make the first half even worse, Leandro González Pirez was stretchered off with injury just before the halftime whistle, with Michael Parkhurst coming in for his place.
Atlanta United showed a spark of life coming out of the second half. Michael Parkhurst made an instant contribution with an inch-perfect through ball to Josef Martinez, who rounded the goalkeeper only to be brought down for a penalty. But Miguel Almirón’s spot kick rattled off the crossbar and stayed out, keeping the score at 4-0.
Atlanta United kept up the fight throughout the second half, but couldn’t find the breakthrough. Kevin Kratz and Brandon Vazquez came on in place of Darlington Nagbe and Tito Villalba in an attempt to find a spark. But it just wasn’t Atlanta’s day, with the match ending 4-0 to the home side.
Atlanta United’s players will look to learn from the mistakes of the day and put this fixture fully in the rear view mirror with 33 matches still left to play in the season, and that starts at the first training session this week. They’ll look to get back on track next weekend at their home opener in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, as they host D.C. United on Sunday, March 11th. Tickets to that match are still available, make sure you’re there to push the team on by getting your tickets here.