Atlanta United lose in friendly, but Thiago Almada dazzles on debut
Among those areas for improvement is continuing to refine ideas for moving the ball forward and how to handle pressure from an opponent, said goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Atlanta United will play their final friendly in Birmingham on February 20 and open their MLS season by hosting Sporting KC on February 27 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Among the weak points: Atlanta United had two players, Franco Ibarra and Machop Chol, who left the opener with injuries. The mostly ineffectual Josef Martinez received a red card in the dying minutes of game one, and Alan Franco was sent off in game two. Pineda said he had no updates on Ibarra or Chol.
The first team had some good times entering the channels between the defenders, but overall they couldn’t break Chivas, which was made up of a few first and second teams. The team is in the LIGA MX season, so they had a physical and chemical advantage over the Five Stripes. Unofficially, Atlanta United finished with five shots, including two on goal, and never really threatened Chivas. The hosts finished with 10 shots, three of which were on goal. His goals were the result of errors made by Atlanta United in defence, one from a turnover, one from a set piece and one from positioning.
Thiago Almada was the highlight of Atlanta United’s starting XI for the opener. Almada, signed as a Designated Player on Wednesday, joined an attack that included Martinez and Luiz Araujo, the team’s other two DPs, ahead of a midfield consisting of Matheus Rossetto, Ibarra and Ozzie Alonso. Andrew Gutman and Ronald Hernandez were the full-backs, with Miles Robinson and George Campbell the centre-backs, and Guzan.
Almada’s influence was limited by his inexperience with his teammates and lack of fitness. He had the team’s only two shots on goal.
“We had to be careful with his time on the pitch, but I think he showed the qualities and the attributes, the passes he can play forward, and I think he was positive,” said Pineda.
Chivas took a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute from a penalty. Campbell was called for the penalty when he was forced into a late tackle after a turnover from Robinson 30 yards from goal. It was the second goal conceded by the team in pre-season.
Atlanta United didn’t fire their first shot until Almada put one on goal in the 28th minute. At this stage, the team’s best tactic in attack was their press when Chivas had the ball. On several occasions, the Five Stripes came close to forcing a turnover in Chivas’ half.
Chivas extended their lead to 2-0 in the 43rd minute, this time from a corner. The ball went to an unmarked player near the back post, 12 yards from goal. He had time to trap the ball and then shoot.
Araujo dribbled past most of the Chivas defense in the 49th minute, but his shot was denied by the Chivas goalkeeper. On the ensuing corner, Martinez headed the ball from the front post to the back, but Campbell was late to arrive and failed to score.
Tyler Wolff replaced Almada in the 50th minute. Ibarra was taken off after a collision a minute later. The team played with 10 men for the next few minutes until Chol came on in the 56th minute.
A Chivas player receives a red card in the 57th minute after a hard tackle from Araujo. He stayed in the game. Chol left after a hard tackle and was replaced by Caleb Wiley around the 66th minute.
Chivas took a 3-0 lead in the 73rd minute with a cheeky left-footed shot around Robinson, who framed the Chivas player, and Guzan.
“You look at the goals and we’ll definitely look back and think we could have been better on those goals,” Guzan said.
Of the first-team players who did not compete – Emerson Hyndman, Marcelino Moreno, Santiago Sosa and Jake Mulraney – Pineda said they were day to day and there was no need to risk push them.
Atlanta United’s second team consisted of forward Dom Dwyer, who is on trial with the team, Jackson Conway, Erik Centeno, Wolff, Amar Sejdic, Noah Cobb, Wiley, Franco, Alex de John, Aiden McFadden and goaltender Bobby Shuttleworth.
The team fell 1-0 behind on a header from a corner in the final minute of the first half. It fell 2-0 down in the 59th minute when a Tepatitlan player beat Atlanta United’s high line and was one-on-one against Shuttleworth. Franco was then sent off for arguing, leaving the team with 10 players for the final 20 minutes. Tepatitlan scored his third in the 75th minute.
“These are good drills for us to see where we need to improve and how to improve,” Guzan said. “I think the whole day today is going to provide that for all of us.”
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Atlanta United 2022 MLS Schedule
Feb. 27 vs. Sporting KC, 3 p.m., FS1
March 5 at Colorado, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
March 13 vs. Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FS1
March 19 c. Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
April 2 at DC United, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
April 9 at Charlotte, 3 p.m., ESPN
April 16 vs. Cincinnati, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
April 24 at Miami, 1 p.m., ESPN
April 30 in Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
May 7 c. Chicago, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
May 15 vs. New England, 2 p.m., ESPN
May 21 in Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX
May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
June 19 vs. Miami, 4 p.m., ESPN2
June 25 in Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 9 c. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC
July 24 at LA Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1
July 30 in Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC
Aug. 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE
Aug. 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
August 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1
Aug. 28 vs. DC United, 4 p.m. UNIV
August 31 in Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 4 in Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX
September 10 c. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
September 14 in Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE
Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas
Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas
Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE