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Atlanta United suffers 3-0 defeat at Monterrey, Gonzalez Pirez suspended

Atlanta United defender Leandro Gonzalez Pirez will be suspended for the team's second leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals. (John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports)

With 15 minutes remaining, Atlanta United FC was in a manageable spot. The Five Stripes trailed Monterrey by just a goal as the match neared the end.

And then everything sort of fell apart.

Atlanta United failed to score and allowed Rayados to notch two goals in the final moments of play. Monterrey took a 3-0 victory Wednesday in a quarterfinal match of the Concacaf Champions League at Estadio BBVA Bancomer in Monterrey, Mexico. And now, the Five Stripes are in a serious hole heading into the second leg, which will be played March 13 at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Atlanta will have to win the second leg by a score of at least 4-0 to advance to the semifinals. Atlanta needs to win by at least 3-0 to force penalty kicks.

The trouble in Mexico for Atlanta United began in the 15th minute, when Dorlan Pabón drew a penalty kick after receiving a push from Leandro Gonzalez Pirez in the box. Nicolas Sanchez slotted the spot kick past Brad Guzan for the home club’s first goal.

From there, the momentum of the match changed hands several times, but Atlanta United seemed to be in control. While Atlanta had trouble creating real chances – notching just one shot on goal and a pair of corner kicks – it seemed as though the Five Stripes could escape Rayados’ grasp with a 1-0 defeat. Certainly, Atlanta – armed with the Golden Boot winner of MLS, Josef Martinez, and the South American Player of the Year, Pity Martinez – could make up that deficit at home.

And then things began to flip.

MONTERREY, MEXICO – MARCH 06: Rogelio Funes Mori of Monterrey heads the ball near Miles Robinson and Michael Parkhurst of Atlanta United during the quarterfinal first leg match between Monterrey and Atlanta United as part of the Concacaf Champions League 2019 at BBVA Bancomer Stadium. (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)

In the 76th minute, Gonzalez Pirez was handed a yellow card for unsporting behavior. The card was Gonzalez Pirez’s second of the tournament, so he will have to sit out the return leg Wednesday. Atlanta is weak in depth at centerback currently due to Franco Escobar’s injury and Florentin Pogba not yet being match fit.

Moments later, in the 80th minute, Gonzalez Pirez thought he had cleared a Monterrey cross with his head, but the ball fell to Carlos Rodriguez at the edge of the box. After settling the ball, he played it to his left to Pabón, who created space from Darlington Nagbe and then unleashed a left-footed shot that rocketed past Miles Robinson and Guzan into the back of the net.

But the scoring wasn’t over. In the 84th minute, Rayados struck gold again. This is time, Pabón raced down the right flank, crossed the ball and found Jesús Gallardo, who put the ball into the roof of the net with a left-footed shot.

Monterrey played a physical style of soccer, committing 25 fouls, 10 of which were against Pity Martinez. Eric Remedi and Ezequiel Barco each suffered four fouls. Carlos Rodriguez committed 10 fouls for Monterrey and was never given a card.

Atlanta United controlled 51 percent of possession, was accurate on 75 percent of its passes and got off just five shots. Josef Martinez, the reigning MLS MVP, did not register a shot.

Monterrey tallied 23 crosses into the box and a total of 17 shots.

Despite trailing most of the match, and by three goals in the final 10 minutes, Atlanta manager Frank de Boer did not call for a substitute until stoppage time. After the 90th minute, Jeff Larentowicz and Hector “Tito” Villalba entered the game. Each of the 13 players who saw the pitch for Atlanta United on Wednesday against Monterrey played just three days prior in an season-opening MLS loss at D.C. United.

In addition to Gonzalez Pirez, Remedi and captain Michael Parkhurst were also issued yellow cards for Atlanta.

Atlanta has a lot of work to do to even the score line against Monterrey. Between now and then, they will also host another MLS match, welcoming expansion side FC Cincinnati on Sunday.

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