Heading into the last week of August, Atlanta United was flying high. The Five Stripes were performing excellently, having won two games in a row while playing some of the best soccer in Major League Soccer (MLS). Atlanta faced a worthy opponent in FC Cincinnati, the current best team in the MLS, on Wednesday, Aug. 30 and came up short, losing 2-1. Just three days later, Atlanta matched up against a mediocre FC Dallas side and ended up drawing 2-2. After a week of disappointing results, Atlanta will have two weeks to sharpen up before taking on the most in form team in the league: Inter Miami.
Going into the fixture against FC Cincinnati, Atlanta United had held their opponent scoreless in two consecutive games as well as scored six goals between these two matches. Atlanta was flying, but they were due to face the runaway Supporters Shield, an award given to the MLS team with the most points from wins and draws at the end of the season, leaders: FC Cincinnati. With Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda suspended due to yellow card accumulation last game, Assistant Coach Diego de la Torre was manager for the game. De la Torre sent out the same starters as the last two games in hope of similar results.
Atlanta started off the game very well, pressuring Cincinnati and controlling much of the ball. The hot start resulted in a goal scored by Edwin Mosquera off a deflected cross from Xande Silva in the tenth minute. Atlanta United closed out the half well but failed to capitalize on the pressure, keeping the score at 1-0. Atlanta began to fade the longer the game went on and eventually conceded two goals in the last 15 minutes. Atlanta could not recover from the one goal deficit with the game ending 2-1 in favor of Cincinnati.
After a disappointing midweek game, the 17s hoped to right the ship against FC Dallas. With Coach Pineda back on the sideline, Atlanta fielded a much changed line up with midfielders Tyler Wolff, Saba Lobjanidze, Amar Sejdic and Santiago Sosa entering the starting 11. The changed line up gave the newer Atlanta United signees a rest while giving a chance to players on the outer edge of the squad.
The match against Dallas started off poorly with Atlanta United conceding a goal in the fourth minute. Atlanta was able to pull back level thanks to a headed goal from forward Giorgos Giakoumakis, assisted by midfielder Thiago Almada in the 44th minute. Atlanta continued their momentum in the second half with Saba getting his second Atlanta United goal in the 58th minute to make the score 2-1 Atlanta. Dallas responded just four minutes later with a goal of their own to make the score 2-2. The score would remain level for the rest of the match despite Atlanta having better chances than Dallas did.
The lack of wins for Atlanta is frustrating for the team due to chances that the Five Stripes had to win both matches. Despite collecting only one point from a possible six, Atlanta is still within touching distance to second place in the standings. Atlanta is just five points behind New England, the team currently in second, and with six matches left in the season, Atlanta will need to step up their performances in order to have playoff games in Mercedes-Benz Stadium this year.
Atlanta United’s next home match will be against Inter Miami on Sept. 16th. The game is likely to have the highest attendance of the season, largely thanks to Lionel Messi joining Inter Miami’s roster. Messi made his Inter Miami debut on July 21st. Since then, Miami has not lost a match and has only drawn one of 11. Atlanta United will have to do everything in their power to contain the Argentine magician, and the packed Benz should help propel the Five Stripes forward.