ATLANTA (ABC4 Sports) – After falling in an early hole, Real Salt Lake could not get over the hump on hump day, as its winless streak hit four in a row with a 2-1 loss at Atlanta United FC.

Ronaldo Cisneros scored two goals in the first half, as RSL dropped to 8-6-6 on the season in its first midweek game of the season.

Johan Kappelhoff scored his first MLS goal in the 37th minute off a cross from Justin Meram, but RSL could not find the equalizer in the second half.

“There were a couple of defensive lapses,” RSL head coach Pablo Mastroeni said about his team’s first half performance. “The first goal started from a poor giveaway and possession, it caught us on the counter, and the second one as well. We were loose with the ball to start the game and we never quite recovered, but the guys fought hard. In the second half, the guys played extremely well to get back in the game and really dictated the game from that point, but we just weren’t lucky enough to find that second goal.”

Cisneros scored his first goal in the seventh minute after Thiago Almada fired a through ball up the right side of the pitch, threading it between two RSL defenders. Cisneros ran onto the ball, spun around a defender near the edge of the box, and then tucked a low shot just inside the far post.

Atlanta went up 2-0 when Cisneros found the back of the net again in the 33rd minute. This time, he was assisted by Matheus Rossetto, who gave Cisneros a feed just outside the top of the box. The Mexican forward created space, dancing with two RSL defenders, then cut back and fired a left-footed shot past keeper Zac MacMath.

“We gifted them a couple goals early, bad turnovers, bad defending after the turnover,” said RSL defender Aaron Herrera. “It’s tough to come from behind like that, sort of a dagger, not only going down 1-0, but going down 2-0 that early. Like I said, the goals were gifted to Atlanta. We have to be a lot better than those little moments. There’s not enough creativity in the attack and just too much crossing and hoping, really. We have to be more creative and be able to create more down the middle. We need to get guys around the other guys and create chances, just switch it up and not be so predictable.”

Real Salt Lake scored their lone goal in the 37th minute when Justin Meram crossed in a soft ball that hung in the air until defender Johan Kappelhof leapt and met it with his head, guiding the ball under the crossbar and into the net. The goal was the first of Kappelhof’s MLS career, coming in his 151st appearance in the league.

Throughout the second half Real Salt Lake continued to seek the equalizer, and in the 69th minute it seemed as if the team may have found it when Sergio Cordova buried a shot past the goalkeeper, but he was determined to be in an offside position and the goal was called back. Atlanta nearly scored its third of the match, but a sliding clearance from Aaron Herrera kept Real Salt Lake’s hope alive. Despite the Claret-and-Cobalt’s best efforts, the team was unable to find the back of the net for the equalizing goal and the match ended with Atlanta United taking the 2-1 victory. 

Meram also had a chance to level the match in the second half, but could not convert.

“Once it got to my right foot, I don’t know if I was inside the box or right on top of the box, but that’s one of my favorite spots and I hit it.,” he said. “I thought it hit the side netting at a minimum, if the goalkeeper gets there or not, we will never know. It’s just unfortunate. Rubio [Rubin] was trying to get out of the way. It was just unlucky.”

Atlanta played aggressively, winning 15 tackles to RSL’s five. The Five Stripes also put seven of their 14 shots on target.

This was the first meeting between Atlanta and RSL since May 2019. The two sides do not meet again for the rest of the regular season.

Real Salt Lake next hosts Sporting KC Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, hoping to stay unbeaten at home.