It was a long afternoon for David Villa and his NYCFC teammates. (Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)
ATLANTA — The less said the better about New York City FC’s nightmare 3-1 loss at Atlanta United Sunday.
City surrendered three goals during a nightmare seven minutes in the opening half and never rebounded at Bobby Dowd Stadium.
Miguel Almiron, coming off capturing MLS player of the week honors in which he recorded a hat-trick, picked up where he left off from the 4-1 triumph over the Houston Dynamo, by connecting twice.
A week after securing an impressive 3-0 triumph over nemesis Orlando City FC last week, NYCFC was reminded how the other side lives with arguably its worst half of the season against the expansion side before 44,901.
Third-place NYCFC (20 points) fell to 6-5-2, while Atlanta (5-4-3, 18) climbed from ninth to seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
“It made it difficult because of the quality of the players they have up front,” City head coach Patrick Vieira said. “They put us under pressure, they played well, they were aggressive especially in the first half, they won a lot of 50-50 balls. When a team like that wins all of the 50-50 it becomes more difficult for us because they have more desire than us.”
The hosts found plenty holes in the NYCFC defense as they rolled to a stunning 3-0 advantage by the 23rd minute.
“We knew we had to change things because when we went there we kind of lost our way — how we wanted to play,” Atlanta midfielder Julian Gressel said. “Today, it was very important that we stuck to the way that we wanted to play and we watched a lot of video of that game. We knew what we had to do today to come out and be on top of the to win the game. I think we did a very good job of executing that game plan.”
First, Almiron converted a Gressel’s right-wing feed from 11 yards to boost United into a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute.
“The first goal we made a mistake because two players went for the ball and our recovery wasn’t good,” Vieira said. “When two players go for the ball and none of them win it, we create the space and become vulnerable.
Only three minutes later, Hector Villalba doubled the advantage as he drilled a Yamil Asad pass from eight yards past goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
And Almiron made it two goals for himself within seven minutes in the 23rd. While battling for the ball with center back Alex Callens on the right wing, Gressel appeared to foul the NYCFC player as Callens fell to the ground.
However, no foul was called and Gressel raced in unmarked and centered the ball to Almiron at the top of the box and he slotted the ball past Johnson for a three-goal bulge.
“If it was another referee he may give it. I think we put ourselves in a difficult position against the quality players they have on their team,” Vieira said. “I think we put ourselves in a difficult position against the quality players they have on their team. Then when you concede a goal in 17 minutes, then 19 minutes and 25 minutes, it is difficult to for us to get something from the game.
City could not buy a break in the first half. After hacking down Almiron at midfield, midfielder Alex Ring was awarded a yellow card. That meant he will miss NYCFC’s Wednesday home match vs. the New England Revolution due to yellow-card accumulation.
NYCFC had trouble solving the Atlanta defense. Goalkeeper Alec Kann’s most difficult first-half save was a diving one ot his left to deny David Villa’s shot from distance in the 37th minute.
The visitors managed to pull one back in the 71st minute when Ben Sweat sent a looping ball over the defense from the right side to Jack Harrison, who fired home a shot to bring to deficit to 3-1.
ATL – Miguel Almiron (Julian Gressel, Tito Villalba) 16’ [HIGHLIGHT]
ATL – Tito Villalba (Yamil Asad) 19’ [HIGHLIGHT]
ATL – Miguel Almiron (Julian Gressel) 23’ [HIGHLIGHT]
NYC – Jack Harrison (Ben Sweat) 71’ [HIGHLIGHT]
ATL – Michael Parkhurst (yellow) 36’
NYC – Alexander Ring (yellow) 43’
ATL – Carlos Carmona (yellow) 65’
NYC – Maximiliano Moralez (yellow) 90+1’
ATLANTA UNITED STARTING LINEUP
Alec Kann; Greg Garza, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Michael Parkhurst ©, Tyrone Mears; Carlos Carmona, Jeff Larentowicz; Yamil Asad, Miguel Almirón (Chris McCann – 90’), Julian Gressel (Kevin Kratz – 79’); Tito Villalba (Kenwyne Jones – 85’).
Substitutes not used: Kyle Reynish, Anton Walkes, Mark Bloom, Andrew Carleton.
NYCFC STARTING LINEUP
Sean Johnson; Ben Sweat (Thomas McNamara – 85’) , Alexander Callens, Maxime Chanot, Ethan White (RJ Allen – 59’); Alexander Ring, Mikey Lopez (Sean Okoli – 72’), Maximiliano Moralez; Rodney Wallace, David Villa ©, Jack Harrison.
Substitutes not used: Eirik Johansen, Miguel Carmargo, Frederic Brillant, John Stertzer.