Atlanta United’s incredible climb up the Eastern Conference standings hit a speed bump Sunday, with the team’s first dropped points in six matches thanks to a 1-0 loss at Red Bull Arena Sunday.
Frank de Boer made two changes to the starting lineup that started in Vancouver on Wednesday as the team continues to deal with a congested stretch of matches. Michael Parkhurst came into the match in place of Brek Shea at the left back position, while Darlington Nagbe returned to the starting lineup after getting the last road trip off. The full XI: Brad Guzan (GK), Michael Parkhurst (LB), Leando González Pirez (CB), Miles Robinson (CB), Franco Escobar (RB), Jeff Larentowicz (CM), Darlington Nagbe (CM), Pity Martinez (CAM), Tito Villalba (LW), Josef Martinez (ST), Julian Gressel (RW).
It was a cagey opening period, with Atlanta United’s possession style chipping away at the New York Red Bulls pressing, defensive style. New York found some penetration into the Atlanta United box, but couldn’t direct many chances toward goal in the opening stages. The Five Stripes nearly opened the scoring on the half hour mar, when Josef Martinez got behind the defense thanks to a long ball from Julian Gressel –– but a last-ditch tackle just put him off his chance as he was set to round the goalkeeper.
The first major incident of the match came just moments later. Josef Martinez got behind the defense again and had a path in on goal, only to be fouled from behind by Tim Parker just outside the box. With the denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity, the ref showed a red card to the Red Bulls center back, reducing them to ten men.
With the Red Bulls falling back a man down, Atlanta United controlled much of the possession for the ensuing hour of the match, but signs of fatigue were on show with the matches piling up on tired legs. With the team pushing forward looking for the winning goal, the Red Bulls found an opening behind the defense. Daniel Royer sent a deep cross to the back post and Tom Barlow’s header back across goal snuck inside the far post, ending Atlanta United’s incredible clean sheet streak just under the nine hour mark.
Atlanta United poured men forward looking for the equalizer, with Brek Shea, Dion Pereira and Romario Williams bringing energy to the attack. But they couldn’t find the opening against a packed-in Red Bulls defense, and the clock ticked toward the final whistle with the score decided at 1-0 to the home side. Despite the result, Atlanta United still sit in fourth place, just four points off the lead in the Eastern Conference with a match in hand.
Atlanta United will get a short rest back in Atlanta before heading back on the road yet again this week to take on Real Salt Lake in Utah. They’ll then come back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to host fellow 2017 expansion side Minnesota United in Atlanta for the second time ever. Tickets to that match are still available, so make sure to secure yours here.