Atlanta United returned from a two-week break after resting up from a compressed and successful August run that saw Atlanta United win two trophies.
However, Atlanta lost a crucial game against Philadelphia Union on August 31st and lost the opportunity to gain ground in the race for first place in the Eastern Conference. It wasn’t a surprising result though, as every Atlanta United player simply ran out of gas during the final game of an eight-game run.
That’s what made Saturday’s loss so surprising. The team was given a week off to recharge and get away from soccer. After their week off, the team got back together to start preparing for the match against the Columbus Crew. Even after a week to recharge and another week of practice and tactical analysis, the team fell short.
Atlanta United scored the first goal of the match in the 19th minute through Josef Martinez, who extended his goal-scoring record to 14 league matches in a row with a goal, a league-best.
Despite the somewhat early goal, Atlanta United’s first half was poor. The attack was stagnant and obviously missed the dynamic and creative spark that the currently injured Ezequiel Barco brings to the team. The backline also looked shaky, with regular starter Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez not eligible to play due to yellow card accumulation.
Atlanta went into halftime with the lead, but not a convincing one.
Play resumed and the Columbus Crew found an equalizer through USMNT forward Gyasi Zardes in the 53rd minute, who smashed the ball into the top left corner.
Seven minutes later, the Crew scored the winning goal through Luis Diaz. Diaz beat Atlanta defender Miles Robinson on the dribble and sent a beautiful curling effort into the bottom left corner.
Atlanta United wouldn’t be able to find another goal to tie up the game, but in the 85th minute, Columbus was gifted another goal through a Robinson own goal. That’s when a large portion of the fans left the stadium.
Atlanta’s flat and lethargic performance was a shocker, but maybe they just need to get back into the groove of things. Either way, the team took a massive hit to its hopes of winning first seed in the East, and if this type of performance happens during the playoffs, Atlanta will almost certainly not repeat as MLS Cup winners.
Despite the loss, Atlanta United has secured a place in the playoffs due to other results around the league. Atlanta United has made it to the playoffs in every year that the team has played in MLS.
Photo Credits: Jason Getz – USA Today Sports
Kyle Soto is a volunteer at The Wolf. Follow him on Twitter @kyledsoto for more soccer content.