COLUMBUS, Ohio – After four games, defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference thanks to a 2-0 loss to Columbus Crew SC Saturday, the team’s fourth straight match without a win.

In a sloppy match played in a torrential downpour, Atlanta went down early after a Columbus goal in the 2nd minute and couldn’t fight back when the lead was stretched to two goals in the 39th minute.

After the match, head coach Frank de Boer said despite starting “very badly,” he thought his team played “quite well” and deserved more than the shutout loss.

“We created our chances – I think we had four chances, three very good chances – and they had two chances and scored two times,” he said. “That’s football.”

De Boer was clearly miffed by the waterlogged field conditions, which were impacted by a day of nonstop rain in Columbus.

“It was dangerous for our players and also the other team,” he said. “They couldn’t call it football anymore.”

After starting the season with de Boer’s preferred 3-4-3 formation, Atlanta played in a 4-3-3 that was more reminiscent of their 2018 look.

In their new formation, de Boer said he was happy with what his team was able to create, but unhappy with their killer instinct. He said he thinks “we can build from here,” but admitted Atlanta “want to change the results as quickly as possible.”

“We showed – in the half-hour after the goal – that we played quite well,” he said. “We have to improve even more, but still I put a lot of confidence in that. We’re going to work hard and try to change this feeling that we have right now and [turn] it into a positive feeling.”

De Boer said his team has “sometimes” deserved more than the results they’ve earned this season, and said Saturday’s match felt similar.

“Today, when you concede an early goal, that’s your own fault,” he said. “But afterwards, we weren’t the worst team on the pitch. Maybe sometimes we were equal; maybe sometimes we were better. But sometimes it’s also not luck. You have to get the luck to go your way, and you can only do it with very hard work together.”

Atlanta now have a two-week break to regroup before a trip to face the New England Revolution on April 13.

By then, de Boer said he hopes to have star attacker Pity Martinez – who missed Saturday’s match with a hamstring injury – back in the fold. But he’s not committing to the Argentine’s return just yet.

“We think he will [be back],” he said. “He’s already running on the field, so I think he’ll be able to play. But we’ll have to wait.”