Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez #7 talks with Atlanta United Interim Head Coach Rob Valentino during the match against the Columbus Crew at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday July 24, 2021. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Atlanta United are dealing with another setback as the club falls 1-0 to Columbus Crew at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Josef Martinez returned to the starting XI and Jürgen Damm came on as a substitute. Jonathan Mensah scored from a set piece to push the crew past the five stripes.

Both teams went after it once the whistle blew and Atlanta had their first chance within four minutes. Machop Chol played a through ball to Marcelino Moreno. Moreno passed to Josef Martinez, who was immediately inundated by three defenders but somehow still laid the ball off to an unmarked Jake Mulraney. With nothing but space and the goalkeeper, he curled a left-footed effort just wide of the post. He was replaced soon after picking up a knock.

Josef Martinez and Machop Chol were pushing high in attack, keeping the crew on their heels. The crosses were coming and the linkup play was there, all that was missing was the finish.

On a counterattack, Darlington Nagbe launched a long ball to Eric Hurtado past the half line and was immediately 1 v 1 with Alec Kann. Hurtado’s nerves weren’t steady as it was assumed he had Kann beat but struck it wide right past the post.

Right when we get the ball, he (Rob Valentino) wants us to go forward and attack.”

Brooks Lennon

A second half goal from Jonathan Mensah sealed Atlanta United’s fate in the 65′ minute. While the five stripes had ample opportunities to bring the game level, that final touch evaded them the rest of the match. “It’s really gut-wrenching to concede that way,” said Atlanta United’s Brooks Lennon. “That play (the goal) is something they practice. We’ve watched it on video all week.”

The build up is getting better and the attack is starting to look threatening, but none of that matters if nobody can finish. There’s a lot of chatter about how things will be better once the Gold Cup and the Olympics are over. How the team will be back to full strength and this stretch of woe will come to a close. That would be true if the defending wasn’t there (they’re missing two defenders and a goalkeeper) but Atlanta’s problem is they can’t score. Their best chance came when Chol setup Martinez with an open look inside the 18, albeit in traffic, but was still a good look. The fan favorite and “King” of the city sent the ball into the stands.

Martinez completed a full-90 for the first time in months so he’ll take time to get readjusted. The Erick “Cubo” Torres experiment has proven to be an utter failure and the fact that he was brought in late in the second half leads me to believe there were other factors involved in that decision. Seeing what we’ve seen from Jackson Conway, having Cubo Torres anywhere on the pitch just doesn’t make logical sense. Machop Chol is making quality runs in the box and into open spaces but they’re not getting him the ball. With the club sitting firmly in 10th place in the eastern conference, if things don’t change soon, they can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.

On the loss, Anton Walkes told us “Firstly, it’s kind of heartbreaking really. I feel like we are getting there slowly but I feel like today was the opportunity to grab it with both hands.”

Shots: 19-10 Atlanta
Shots on Target: 5-3 Atlanta 
Corner kicks: 11-4 Atlanta
Fouls committed: 13-10 Columbus
Offside: 1-1
Possession: 58-42 Atlanta
Passing Accuracy: 86-82 Atlanta

Until the team can find some positive form, the main draw at Mercedes-Benz will be special guests like artist Davido and random sightings of superstars like Kanye West in the Supporters’ Section.

Atlanta United will once again hope to turn things around next Friday, July 30, as they travel to Orlando to take on Orlando City SC.

-Jon J.

Photo: Courtesy of ATL UTD

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