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Atlanta United takes ‘a few positives’ from loss to Columbus Crew

Jun 24, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United defender Mikey Ambrose (22) against the Portland Timbers during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports)

MARIETTA, Ga. — Atlanta United broke out a 4-3-3 formation in its 2-0 loss at the Columbus Crew over the weekend. While there were defensive issues, and a complete assessment of the tactics were impossible due to the weather conditions, the Five Stripes believe they are progressing in the attack.

“I think you can take a few positives from that,” Mikey Ambrose, who started at left fullback against Columbus, said at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta training ground Wednesday. “I think we built a couple pretty good chances. I think it felt and looked a little bit better [than the 3-4-3 used in previous games].”

Atlanta put five shots on target in the game and forced two good saves from United States international goalkeeper Zack Steffen. However, the defensive performance was a letdown. Columbus came out and scored in the second minute and added a second seven minutes before halftime. After both goals, Atlanta defenders looked at each other with confusion.

“I think there was a little confusion on who should have taken who and a little bit of a lack of communication from all of us,” Ambrose said. “We’re working on that this week, for sure. I think with this two weeks of training in the back four [before the next game at New England], it’ll help a lot better going forward. Everyone will feel better from having a little more practice in it.

Right back Franco Escobar left the Columbus game early in the second half with a reported strained adductor. The club still has not announced his timeline for recovery, and another extended absence would take away a key piece from Atlanta’s back four. However, if the 4-3-3 is preferred in the coming weeks, Ambrose said the Five Stripes “have other guys who can play right back as well.”

‘Would have been better’ postponed

Heavy rain in Columbus created a waterlogged pitch Saturday. Cold temperatures and strong wind made things worse. Ambrose said Wednesday the playing conditions were the “most difficult” he’s ever seen. He believes postponing the game would have been the right move.

“It was the same weather for both teams, and we agreed to keep going, but it probably would have been better for the game if we had postponed it,” Ambrose told reporters.

El Pity still missing

There is no word from Atlanta regarding Escobar’s timeline for recovery. Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez remains out after sustaining a hamstring injury with the Argentina men’s national team last month. Martínez picked up the knock during a 3-1 loss to Venezuela on March 22 and subsequently missed Atlanta’s game at Columbus. The January signing again ran before training Wednesday, but did not participate team drills.

Midfielder Kevin Kratz (calf) and fullback George Bello (groin) also remain out. Centerback Florentin Pogba (hamstring) rejoined the first team Tuesday. Midfielder Chris Goslin (knee) was seen training with Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday.

‘Confidence’ through adversity

Prior to 2019, it was mostly sunshine and rainbows for Atlanta United. Now, the Five Stripes have two points from their first four league games and are last in the Eastern Conference. Facing the first extended run of poor results in club history, Ambrose believes he and his teammates have the mental fortitude to emerge on the other side.

“I think we have a lot of confidence in out team, in our team unity we’ve had over the last few years,” he said. “We’ve been able to accomplish a lot, and I think we’ll get through this and we’ll come out even stronger. 

“This is the first time we’ve dealt with adversity, and it’s only going to make us grow from here and get closer and grow our bonds stronger. Going forward, I think we’ll get through this and be an even better team.”

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