PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Even after a road tie, Atlanta United couldn’t help but feel that a couple of points got away.
Defender Liam Ridgewell scored the equalizer for Portland some four minutes after Atlanta went ahead and the two teams settled for a 1-1 draw in a match that saw Union midfielder Yamil Asad crumple to the turf after taking a ball to the head.
United rookie Julian Gressel scored from the top of the box, getting past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Jake Gleeson in the 46th minute. It was Gressel’s first MLS goal.
Ridgewell then headed in the equalizer, and celebrated with his trademark “Ridgy Roll” on the turf for the sellout crowd at Providence Park.
The Timbers (5-3-3) had a good chance in stoppage time but David Guzman’s shot caromed off the left post.
Through a translator Coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said: “We go with our hands empty.”
Asked why, he said: “Because we were the better team.”
Goalkeeper Alec Kann agreed.
“This is a tough place to go,” Kann said. “We would have loved three points and I think we arguably had the better of the game, we controlled the game. It’s disappointing to get a point when we should win, but at the end of the day a point in this stadium is a good result.”
Atlanta (3-4-3) had dropped its last two matches, including last week’s 3-1 loss at NYCFC. Portland was the United’s sixth road game in its last seven.
Gressel’s goal gave Atlanta 20 for the season, pulling United even with Toronto atop the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Ridgewell’s goal gave Portland 21 for the season, matching Houston atop the West.
Diego Valeri returned to the Timbers after missing two games because of a hip flexor. Darlington Nagbe missed the game because of a hamstring injury.
Timbers coach Caleb Porter felt similar to Tata, that Portland should have collected the points.
“We’ll take the point. Not satisfied with that at all,” he said. “Now we gotta make up for it on the road.”
There was a scary moment early in the first half when Asad was hit in the head with a ball kicked at close range and dropped limp to the turf. He returned to the game moments later.
“We’ve proven it all season, especially with Larentowicz, that we look out for the best interest of our players and make sure they are protected,” Tata said afterward about whether he was concerned for Asad.
Tata went on to say through the translator: “It was something that was authorized by the fourth official. It wasn’t Asad’s or his call, and they let him back in.” Then he chimed in in English, “I’m the coach, no referee.”
Referee Alan Kelly said via a pool reporter that the “Atlanta medical staff determined after the check that he was fit to play. They sent him to the fourth official after the check.”
It was Ridgewell’s first goal of the season. He missed six games because of a foot injury.
“Long time coming,” Ridgewell said about the Ridgy Roll. “Obviously, glad to get the goal, to drag us back into the game. Disappointed we couldn’t go and get the second one to win the game. Hard-fought draw.”
Gressel was the eighth overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. Born in Germany, he was a four-year starter at Providence.
Atlanta gets its next two at home, first hosting Houston next weekend before a rematch against NYCFC. Portland plays the next two on the road, starting with Montreal next week.