Brad Guzan - Atlanta United - September 27, 2020

After Atlanta United's 2-1 loss at Columbus Crew SC on Sunday, the fourth-year MLS club finds itself outside the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time. 

And they aren't about to claim any moral victories after merely surviving an unusually challenging year, or making it to Decision Day presented by AT&T with a flicker of postseason hope left.

"None," declared goalkeeper Brad Guzan after the defeat, when asked to point out any positives from the season." 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, and so we need to hit the reset button before next year.

"It’s difficult when you try to look back at the year and try and pull some positives, because from start to finish it wasn’t acceptable for Atlanta United."

Atlanta were perhaps unfortunate Sunday, seeing a potential go-ahead penalty for a foul of Jon Gallagher reversed in the 24th minute before Lucas Zelarayan put the hosts ahead in the 28th. 

Gyasi Zardes doubled the lead 10 minutes after the break, before Marcelino Moreno converted a penalty in the 58th minute to pull one back. Atlanta edged possession and chances, but they couldn't find even an equalizer on a day only a victory would've prolonged their season.

Yet if luck foiled Atlanta Sunday, they had played themselves into that position, winning only two of 15 regular season matches prior to a victory over FC Cincinnati a week ago that kept postseason hopes alive.

"I think in terms of the fight they players showed, especially tonight, you can’t ask for more fight and more spirit out of them," interim manager Stephen Glass said. "We didn’t not make the playoffs based on the performance tonight. There have been a few performances that were not at the level of the playoffs, and that’s what’s cost us the playoff spot. Not the performance tonight."

Atlanta still have the resumption of the Concacaf Champions League to tend to in December. Otherwise, however, it will be an unusual offseason, one full of instrospection as the club goes about the business of hiring a new permanent manager after the dismissal of Frank de Boer back in July.

"I think that the lesson is you don’t take this league for granted," said Atlanta defender Jeff Larentowicz. "It’s not something that just happens, we can’t take that for granted as players. The success that we’ve had in years past has been from hard work and a collective attitude. When things got tough I don’t think we had that collective mentality."