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On Friday, head coach Gonzalo Pineda stated what we all had been thinking… It has been a heartbreaking week for Atlanta United. The team encountered several injuries, including three players, after the match against D.C. United last weekend. 

Sunday’s match against Charlotte FC would be challenging, especially with everything in play, including the team’s second consecutive match away from home. In their inaugural season, Charlotte has been playing better lately. They were ready to face their regional rivalry and hungry for their first all-time win over Atlanta United.  

The result was Atlanta United’s second loss of the season, ending a three-match winning streak. Charlotte’s captured their third win in its last four matches by beating Atlanta 1-0. 

But it was not easy for Charlotte. Atlanta fought back in the second half and almost equalized by creating chances and finishing with more shots (16) than Charlotte (15). However, it wasn’t enough. 

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “I think in the second half, we were all over them, whether it be the final ball or the final shot, we just struggled to then put the ball in the back of the net. And that’s the name of the game.”

Atlanta United struggled a lot with the absence of its three key starters, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, midfielder Matheus Rossetto, and striker Josef Martínez – along with goalkeeper Dylan Castaheira – after they sustained injuries last week. Luiz Araújo, the flashy forward who scored the team’s first goal of the season, is also absent from the game. 

Atlanta United struggled with the absence of its three key starters, midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Matheus Rossetto, and striker Josef Martínez. Also missing were goalkeeper Dylan Castaheira and Luiz Araújo, the forward who scored the team’s first goal of the season.

To counter the threat, Coach Pineda started the match with a three-person defensive line- George Campbell, Alan Franco, and Miles Robinson. Santiago Sosa and Amar Sejdić were moved to midfield, replacing Alonso and Rossetto.

In the third minute, the first shot of the match was from forward Dom Dwyer, who got his first career start in red and black, filling in the no. 9 roles most often occupied by Martínez. However, Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina was well positioned to deny the striker’s effort, who tried to turn into a shooting position.

In the third minute, the match’s first shot was from forward Dom Dwyer, who got his first career start filling in for Martínez. However, Charlotte goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina was well positioned to deny the striker’s effort.  Atlanta dominated possession early on, but Charlotte took control around the 11th minute.

“We knew we needed to have more patience in our buildup, so we were really able to imbalance them, and I think the moments we did that, that’s where we succeed,” Pineda said. “But at moments, we were very direct, we tried to force balls into tough areas, and they were very good at pressing those half spaces that we want to occupy.”

In the 11th minute, Charlotte FC scored on a direct corner kick by Jordy Alcívar. He placed the ball in the far post past goalkeeper Guzan’s outstretched arms. That later turned out to be the winning goal for Charlotte FC. 

Atlanta had an excellent chance in the 33rd minute when Thiago Almada sent the ball wide. Campbell passed to Gutman, who delivered a cross inside the box to Moreno. Moreno then placed a firm, one-touch shot on goal that was blocked by defender Kahlina, leading to an Atlanta corner kick.

Coach Pineda made several substitutions in the second half. Jake Mulraney and Franco Ibarra started the 2nd half, and in the 65th minute, Ronaldo Cisneros made his debut, replacing  Dwyer, while in the 81st minute, Caleb Wiley replaced Sosa. The substitutions benefited Atlanta United’s play, looking more dominant in the second half. Atlanta player Andrew Carleton, age 17, nearly had the equalizer in the 88th minute when he connected with a ball. Unfortunately, his header went just wide of the goal.

“We created very good chances, some of them we could have scored, and maybe the story of the game could have been different,” Pineda said.

One of the bright spots for Atlanta United on Sunday was the work of the designated player from Argentina, Almada. Although he did not score a goal on Sunday, his talent and skills were on full display, and his potential was evident to everyone. 

The teams are now even at 1-1. Atlanta United took the first game at home on March 13, with a score of 2-1.

By Ever