It'd be one thing if Atlanta United's 2-1 loss to Inter Miami in Week 12 was just a hiccup in an otherwise successful season. But the result continued a stretch of futility unlike anything the young organization has so far experienced since its remarkably successful entrance into MLS in 2017.
The loss means the 2018 MLS Cup winners have gone six matches without a win — in fact, they've only won one of their last 10 following a pair of wins to start the 2020 season. It's the longest winless stretch in their brief MLS history and the playoffs no longer look as certain as they seemed when the season launched back in February.
Interim head coach Stephen Glass, now preparing for a Wednesday date with FC Dallas, knows there's work to be done to bounce back from this loss, starting on Sunday when he plans to outline some hard truths with his players.
"We'll see them in the morning where we can sit and go over the video, and show them some situations that could be improved upon. Obviously, you want to move on as quick as you can, but it's important that you recognize the mistakes that were made."
One of the clearest mistakes was giving up an early goal for the second match in a row. Last week, Atlanta conceded a first-minute goal in Nashville and it proved a slippery slope to a 4-2 loss. Though Atlanta were able to equalize against Miami after giving up a second-minute goal to Juan Agudelo on Saturday night, they proceeded to concede again, to Brek Shea after just 11 minutes.
“We lost a goal early on a counter attack, which is something that we specifically talked about,” Glass noted.
Highlights: Atlanta 1, Inter Miami 2
Atlanta were unable to deploy star midfielder Ezequiel Barco, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and was not fit to play against Miami. Glass is hoping to have Barco ready for Wednesday, especially since there’s no official word on the possible addition of Marcelino Moreno from Lanus to the squad.
Though the deal to add the Argentine playmaker to the Five Stripes is reportedly close, Glass noted in his post-match comments, “There's no indication on a timeline at the moment for any players coming in.”
Veteran Jeff Larentowicz feels that it's up to him and his teammates to turn the current trend around. “I think in the moments that mattered, we weren't good enough, and unfortunately, those moments came quickly and early in the game,” he reflected after the match. “Everyone's obviously disappointed, this is something we're not used to, but we as a team have to rebound.”
“You have to be humble when you're winning and stand up when you're losing,” he added. “Right now, we’re in a tough stretch. We've lost a couple of games in a row. But the season's not going away. We’ve got to stand up because we’ve got another game in a couple of days. And as much as you want to not look at your mistakes and not think about the next game, because it's tough, you can't do it. You’ve got to fight your way out of it. You’ve got to play your way out of it. You can't back down at this point.”
Jon Gallagher, who represented the Five Stripes’ most obvious bright spot with his first-ever MLS goal, agreed with his veteran teammate. “It’s a really tough spot that the team’s in at the moment. I think that the club's not used to being in a spotlight like this. Nobody's going to help us get out this rut, apart from ourselves, so I think collectively we've got to come together. It’s on the players, and I know we’re capable of doing it.”