Testing time arrives for Atlanta United FC after back-to-back losses

NEW YORK – The wins came early for Atlanta United FC, but now the expansion team is facing its first bit of adversity with back-to-back stinging losses by the same 3-1 scoreline and just one win in their last six games. Sunday's loss came against conference foe New York City FC at Yankee Stadium in a game that saw the home side get 11 shots on target.

“This is a challenge for us, the first time this team is facing some adversity where now its two games in a row that not only do we lose, but we don’t play well,” Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst said. “This is a testing time for us to see how we can regroup and come out in our next game and pull things together and have a better performance.”

Atlanta United were on their back foot for much of the game and were a bit fortunate to be level on the half after a magnificent half volley by Carlos Carmona.

NYCFC increased the intensity after the break to score twice in a one-minute span at the hour mark, but Atlanta coach Tata Martino said the issues weren’t reserved for the final 45 minutes.

“It wasn’t just a problem in the second half, the whole game we were the inferior side and even when we scored it was a half volley from outside the box and even in that moment we didn’t deserve the goal,” Martino said. “The other team was just superior tonight.”

While he didn’t want to talk about a group of games, Martino said there were no positives to draw from his team’s performance against NYCFC. At the same time, though, this isn’t a time to make rash decisions on playing time after consecutive two-goal defeats. 

“We’ll evaluate everything this week,” Martino said. “We have to see who is recovering and what players will be available, but I also think we played a very good first 6-7 games and just because played two poor games that doesn’t mean we have to modify everything.”

A positive for Atlanta is that there are veteran players on the roster who have been through this in MLS before, like Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz.

“I think we have to come together,” Parkhurst said. “When you lose you tend to get to yourself and focus on yourself and your own stuff and we need to make sure we stick together as a team and get to what made us successful in the beginning of the year and that was working hard and working or each other.”

Larentowicz is also not ready to raise a caution flag just nine games into the season with six of those matches played outside of Atlanta.

“You play any sport, in any league, I don’t care what it is, you go on the road and it’s going to be tough. The margin in MLS is really small,” Larentowicz said. “I think we’ve held our own against the best in the league, but today we got beat by the better team. I’m not going to see its this overarching theme for us, but today we got beat.”