ATLANTA -- Set pieces are always dangerous at any lever of soccer, letting the offense get its guys in place and kick the ball 10 yards free of any defender.
Saturday night's game at sold-out Silverbacks Park saw five set-piece goals. Unfortunately for hometown fans, Minnesota connected on three of them.
Aaron Pitchkolan poked home the decisive score past Joe Nasco in the 61st minute, redeeming himself from an early handball in the box that led to a penalty kick and leading United past Atlanta 3-2.
"It was just kind of a scramble off ... a corner kick," Pitchkolan said. "The ball was bouncing around, and I was in the right place at the right time and got a toe on it."
Atlanta Coach Brian Haynes said the defense on set pieces was what led to the Silverbacks' first defeat of the year.
"All three goals were on set plays, even a PK," Haynes said. "On the two corner kicks, we've gotta be touch tight. We've got to be close to people."
Atlanta (2-1-0, 6 points) got off to a much better start than last week, handling some dangerous chances by Minnesota (2-0-1, 7 points) and creating their own.
Milton Blanco broke through with a goal in the 17th minute for Atlanta on his 29th birthday. Blanco set up to take a free kick from about 20 yards out after Pedro Mendes was fouled just outside the box. Blanco's shot went over the wall, and Daryl Sattler couldn't get his hand on enough of the ball to keep it out of the net.
"At the time (scoring) felt good because it got us the lead," Blacno said. "But when it comes down to it, I don't think I did enough to help the team win."
United got its first equalizer in the 23rd minute off a corner kick by Simone Bracalello. The forward sent a low, hard ball into the box, and Brian Kallman redirected it enough to put it on goal. Nasco couldn't grab the hard shot, and Minnesota was back even at 1-1.
"We scored two good goals tonight at home," Atlanta defender Martyn Lancaster said, "and you expect to win the game, but that wasn't the case. We can't keep conceding goals off set pieces."
Atlanta was awarded a penalty kick in the 24th minute after Pitchkolan's handball. Ruben Luna headed a deflection off a shot by Central grad Borfor Carr that went off Pitchkolan's upper arm. Luna buried the PK to Sattler's left as he was diving right for the 2-1 lead.
After halftime, Minnesota got its own chance on a penalty kick when one was called on Atlanta in the 54th minute. Bracalello hit it under a diving Nasco to bring the score back level.
Brad Stisser came on as a sub for Atlanta in the 68th minute and had the Silverbacks' best chance to equalize. Horace James raced down the right side and sent a cross with pace across the box. Stisser was wide open on the left side, but his one-time volley went wide and high to end the threat on that possession.