Atlanta United traveled to Ohio without a few key members of its squad on Saturday for an Eastern Conference matchup against Columbus Crew. In a rare rain-free match at Lower.com Field, it was a night to forget for Atlanta United. The 5-Stripes conceded six goals and lost their first MLS match of the 2023 campaign 6-1, thus ending the team's unbeaten streak to start the season.
First half - Noah Cobb makes his MLS debut, Columbus Crew opens the scoring
Seven players were unavailable for Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda due to the March FIFA international window. The absence of Thiago Almada (Argentina), Miles Robinson (United States), and Giorgos Giakoumakis (Greece) brought Santiago Sosa, Noah Cobb and Miguel Berry into the starting XI. The match marked the MLS debut for Cobb, the 17-year-old Homegrown center back.
After 14 minutes of back and forth, Columbus ended the deadlock. Former Atlanta United star Darlington Nagbe played a pass wide to Alexandru Matan. The crafty midfielder carried the ball then crossed it low into the center of the box. A deflection popped the ball up and caused Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan to come off his line. Crew midfielder Aidan Morris beat Guzan to it and scored on a header from close range. Morris's first career MLS goal put the home side in front 1-0.
The visitors escaped disaster a few minutes later. Columbus pressed in their attacking third and forced Guzan into a mistake that was nearly costly. Atlanta's goalkeeper played the ball short to midfielder Franco Ibarra centrally. The Crew took the ball away and the 5-Stripes had to scramble back defensively to prevent falling behind by two goals early.
In the final minutes of the first half, Atlanta United fullback Andrew Gutman left the match after going down on the pitch. Tyler Wolff entered in the 45th minute as his replacement. At the end of the first half, Atlanta United was still without its first shot of the match but trailed by just one goal.
Second half - Columbus Crew extends their lead, Brooks Lennon scores his first goal of the season
The second half started with Pineda receiving a yellow card. Seconds later, Columbus found their second goal of the night. The Crew's playmaker Matan played a ball into space toward the left corner where Jacen Russell-Rowe could run onto it. The attacker collected the ball then crossed it into the box. There, the Crew's newly acquired forward from Aberdeen FC, Christian Ramírez, put a one-touch shot out of Guzan's reach to make it 2-0 Columbus. It marked the first time this season that Atlanta United had conceded twice in a match.
However, Atlanta United would give up more goals as Columbus stretched their lead. Off a corner kick from Matan, 6-foot-6 defender Philip Quinton rose up and put a header on frame in the 51st minute to score his first goal with the Crew. Then, in the 64th minute Ramírez scored his second for his brace. Four minutes later, Russell-Rowe got in on the scoring to make it 5-0 for the home team.
In the 66th minute, Pineda made his second substitution of the match. Erik López made his first appearance this season and came on for Amar Sejdić.
Atlanta United got one back in the 71st minute. On a rapid attack, Wiley crossed the ball into the box from the left flank. The cross was deflected, which created a scramble for a 50-50 ball. Eventually, Brooks Lennon was able to collect and drive a low shot toward the far post past goalkeeper Patrick Schulte. The goal was Lennon's first of the season and Atlanta United's first of the night.
Jay Fortune and Matheus Rossetto entered the match in the 73rd minute for Atlanta. After dealing with a hamstring injury the past few weeks, this match marked Rossetto's first appearance since March 4 against Toronto FC. Santiago Sosa and Miguel Berry came off.
The 5-Stripes appeared to score their second goal of the night in the 82rd minute. Atlanta drew a foul and earned a free kick about 40 yards from goal. Lennon took the kick and lifted the ball over the line. Center back Juanjo Purata was able to run onto it and head it into goal. However, the defender's finish was called back because of offsides.
The home team capped off the rout with another goal in the 91st minute. Second-half substitute Max Arfsten received a cross in the center of the box from defender Will Sands and hit a one-touch shot for the Crew's sixth goal of the night. And that's where the scoreline stands. The 5-Stripes get their first loss of the season, falling 6-1 on the road to Columbus Crew.
Brooks Lennon scores his first goal of 2023 against Columbus Crew
Up next - Atlanta United gets Thiago Almada back, plays at Mercedes-Benz Stadium next Saturday
The 5-Stripes play at home next Saturday in another meeting against an Eastern Conference opponent, New York Red Bulls. The team will look to get back on track with their players returning from international duty, including Thiago Almada and Miles Robinson.
Show up rowdy and proud, 17s! Secure your ticket to an Atlanta United match today.
Highlights: Columbus Crew vs. Atlanta United FC | March 25, 2023