Atlanta United's two-match winning streak came to an end on the road Saturday. A physical Whitecaps side used their aerial advantage well and held out on the other end to send Atlanta home with a 3-1 loss after a frustrating night in Vancouver for the red, black and gold.
Head coach Tata Martino fielded the same Atlanta lineup as his eleven against NYCFC last week: Alec Kann (GK), Greg Garza (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Tyrone Mears (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Carlos Carmona (CM), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Julian Gressel (RW), Yamil Asad (LW), and Tito Villalba (ST).
Fast starts have been a trademark for Atlanta United all season – with five first-half goals in the past two matches and scoring first in all but one match this season – and it took only seven minutes for them to get on the scoreboard in this one. Yamil Assad drifted into the middle and sprayed a pass to Julian Gressel on the right wing. The German rookie's first-time pass was inch-perfect for Greg Garza crashing in on the far post, and the U.S. international's left-footed blast was too strong for Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted, as Garza notched his first goal of the season to take a 1-0 lead.
The pace was frantic, with both sides increasing defensive pressure for the rest of the first half, with Alec Kann called into action a few times as the Whitecaps searched for an equalizer at home. That pressure paid off in the 31st minute for Vancouver, with another defender getting on the scoresheet. A scramble for possession fell to the feet of Andrew Jacobson, who chipped a first-time pass over the defense to center back Kendall Waston in the box. The Costa Rican international made no mistake, boxing out the defender and volleying into the ground from close range past Alec Kann to level the score 1-1.
The Vancouver captain would strike again just before halftime to gain the advantage. In the 44th minute, Cristian Techera sent in an out-swinging corner kick and Kendall Waston rose highest, sending his header bouncing into the turf and inside the far post past Kann. Carlos Carmona sent a header off the post just two minutes later but the first half ended 2-1, leaving the red, black and gold in the unfamiliar position of having to fight back from a goal down in the second half.
The second half started as a scrappy midfield battle. Garza was able to get behind the defense in the 61st minute and his cross found Tito Villalba, but the attack was snuffed out just before the Argentine could get a shot off from close range. But it was another set piece that put Atlanta United further behind. Kendall Waston rose up again to meet a corner kick with his head, which centered the ball in front of the goal before Vancouver center back Tim Parker headed the ball on target, and despite Kann's heroic save to claw the ball off the line, Fredy Montero got to the rebound first to smash in the third for the home side.
Kenwyne Jones came on to bring a more physical presence to the front line, and Atlanta United was almost able to get one back in the 76th minute. Almirón found himself alone from a tight angle near the goal, and his shot beat the keeper but was deflected onto the post by a scrum of Vancouver defenders. Leandro González Pirez was able to head the rebound on target but Kendall Waston was able to head the ball off the line again to preserve the two-goal lead. Despite a couple half chances over the final 15 minutes, Atlanta wasn't able to break through Vancouver's formidable back line, and the match ended 3-1.
Atlanta United will look to bounce back as they head on the road again next week to face Chicago Fire in their second matchup of the year. Atlanta defeated the Fire 4-0 in the last meeting in Atlanta so the expansion side will hope to mirror that dominant performance in Chicago next Saturday.
The next home match for Atlanta United is scheduled for Saturday, June 17 as they host the Columbus Crew. You can purchase single game tickets to the match or secure your seat to the match plus two others with the Atlanta United 3-Game Pack.