Atlanta United falls 2-1 to Columbus Crew in Regular Season finale

Atlanta United lost to Columbus Crew SC 2-1 in its 2020 MLS Regular Season finale. Marcelino Moreno scored his second goal of the season, but Atlanta’s second-half comeback fell short despite out-shooting Columbus 13-9.

Atlanta appeared to have won a penalty in the 24th minute when Jon Gallagher was taken down in the box by Eloy Room. Ismail Elfath immediately pointed to the spot; however, video review overturned the call on the field. The swing in momentum was drastic, as less than five minutes later, Lucas Zalarayán put Columbus ahead.

Columbus doubled the lead in the 55th minute from Gyasi Zardes, who finished off a long counterattack. Artur played Zardes through along the left wing, allowing the veteran American forward to dribble into the box where his left-footed shot redirected off a diving Miles Robinson and into the back of the net.

But Atlanta quickly responded from Moreno less than five minutes later. Jürgen Damm was taken down inside the box by Milton Valenzuela, with Elfath again immediately pointing to the spot. This time the penalty stood, and Moreno calmly slotted to the right post to give Atlanta life over the final half hour.

Atlanta United defender George Bello #21 dribbles the ball during the first half of the match against Columbus Crew SC at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday November 8, 2020. This is the last regular season match of the continuation of MLS’ 25th season. (Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

Needing a goal to keep its season alive, Atlanta poured on pressure late and attempted multiple crosses into the box. Although they ultimately forced 24 clearances from Columbus, Atlanta was unable to find an equalizer. 

With the stakes as high as the tension, things finally boiled over when Franco Escobar was sent off after his second yellow. After a foul on Nagbe that took him to ground, the Atlanta defender surprisingly got a yellow card and was given his marching orders. Not even 10 seconds after receiving the ejection, the argentine was on the Crew sideline yelling at the technical staff.

It’s been a rough regular season for Atlanta United after losing multiple key players, their head coach, and their identity. Looking back, not making the playoffs could be a blessing in disguise as the club needs to regroup and find themselves. That feeling was echoed by Atlanta’s Brad Guzan.

[On positives this season] “None. We pride ourselves on being a top club. We pride ourselves on winning games. We pride ourselves on not just making the playoffs but competing for MLS Cup. We failed in all of those areas. We need to hit the reset button before next year. It is difficult when you try to look back at the year and try and pull some positives. From start to finish it wasn’t acceptable for Atlanta United.”

The five stripes finish the 2020 MLS Regular Season in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 6-13-4 (22 points). The club will have at least one more match this year against Club America in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League, scheduled to resume play Dec. 15-22.

-Jon J.

Photos: Courtesy of ATL UTD

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