ATLANTA -- Ezequiel Barco's goal in the 70th minute salvaged a point for Atlanta United in a lethargic 1-1 draw with Philadelphia on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Barco's header, three minutes after he came into the game, offset a goal by Brenden Aaronson in the 47th minute. It also saved Atlanta some embarrassment because its offense was again simply not as efficient as it once was with just one shot on goal before Barco's first goal this season in front of an announced attendance of 42,651.
Manager Frank de Boer mixed things up with his formation, eschewing the wingbacks on the flanks in favor of a diamond midfielder with Jeff Larentowicz at the base in front of the three centerbacks, Darlington Nagbe at the top playing underneath striker Josef Martinez, with Eric Remedi on the left and Julian Gressel on the right. Flanking Josef Martinez were Pity Martinez and Hector Villalba, in for Barco.
The diamond midfield was a sea change for the team, which going back to previous manager Gerardo Martino had always used attacking fullbacks, even in a four-man backline. It's also a formation never before used by the team.
The formational change may have been to try to spark an offense that hasn't created many chances resulting in it scoring one goal or fewer in five of its previous six games.
The results are much different than in each of the previous two seasons when it scored 70 goals.
If de Boer's hope was to create more offense, Atlanta United failed to put a shot on goal through the first 20 minutes. Philadelphia created a few opportunities but twice failed to touch in passes that went across the face of the goal. On the last, goalkeeper Brad Guzan was hit in the head as players lunged for the ball and stayed down for several minutes. He was cleared by the attending personnel and continued.
Atlanta United got off its first shot in the 36th minute when Pity Martinez hit a slicing effort from outside the penalty box that landed closer to one of the tunnels in the corner than the goal.
Villalba cranked another shot a few seconds later, but it rolled wide.
Josef Martinez came closest in the 38th minute when he slid into a cross from Pity Martinez. The shot slammed into the crossbar. Josef Martinez slid into goalkeeper Andre Blake and stayed down for several minutes as personnel examined him. He eventually got up and limped off the field. He quickly resumed running and came back onto the field.