Atlanta United fell to Liga MX side C.F. Monterrey 3-0 in the first leg of its Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal at Estadio BBVA Bancomer Wednesday night. The return leg is scheduled for Wednesday, March 13 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Nicolás Sánchez opened the scoring for Monterrey in the 17′ from the penalty spot. Dorlan Pabón was played in along the right side and was ruled to be taken down by Leandro González Pirez (a soft penalty indeed). Sánchez stepped up and went to Brad Guzan’s left, and although the keeper guessed correctly, Sánchez’s attempt put Rayados up 1-0.
Pabón doubled the lead for Monterrey in the 80′, receiving a pass from Carlos Rodríguez at the top of the box and blasting a left-footed shot to the left side of the goal. Jesus Gallardo made it 3-0 four minutes later. Pabón sent in a cross from the right side and found Gallardo alone at the top of the six-yard box, who settled the ball off his chest and hit a hard left-footed shot into the roof of the net. The final 10 minutes was target practice for Monterrey.
Atlanta was in this same position just a week ago, trailing 3-1 in the first leg to CS Herediano before blasting the Costa Rican club 4-0 in Kennesaw. But the difference in this scenario is Monterrey is on fire, riding a win streak that’s put them 2nd in Liga MX, they’re loaded with big-name weapons like Pabón and Miguel Layun, and unlike with Herediano, the lads didn’t get an away goal.
Atlanta was absolutely flat in the first half with nothing going their way. Creation was scarce and that was proven by Monterrey’s 61% possession in the first 45. Atlanta United had a much better second half but by then the psychological damage had been done. Two corner kicks, five shots, and one on target details their attack in a nutshell. An even bigger problem was the disparity in fouls between the clubs. Michael Parkhurst, Leandro González-Pirez, and Eric Remedi received yellow cards but in total the team committed 15 fouls. Monterrey’s Maxi Meza and Jesus Gallardo were issued yellows as well but the club tallied 26 total fouls.
Atlanta’s first go at a Liga MX club did not go as planned but luckily the club is 3-0 all-time in two-legged series (NYCFC 2018, NYRB 2018, Herediano 2019).
Atlanta’s baas (that’s “boss” in Dutch) fielded his strongest available 11 and essentially left them for dead. The past two seasons you could easily guess when Tata was going to make a substitution. But Frank the Farmer (de Boer = “the farmer”) is not so predictable and nobody saw what he had coming. With an embarrassing single shot on goal, he made two apathetic substitutions in the 89′ and they weren’t even good ones. Sending Tito Villalba in for duty was a good idea (but about 30 minutes too late) and Jeff Larentowicz, in all honesty, had no business being on that pitch.
The Five Stripes have a mountain to climb next week and will surely have their mettle tested. The task won’t be any easier with the absence of their defensive enforcer. Leandro González Pirez picked up his second yellow card of the tournament and will miss next week’s clash.
Atlanta United will pick up the pieces and prepare for their home opener this Sunday, March 10 (5 p.m./ESPN) against FC Cincinnati at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Photo: Courtesy of ATLUTD