Will Atlanta United finish as high as fourth?

Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda looks on from the sidelines during the match against Cruz Azul at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday July 29, 2023. (Photo by Kyle Hess/Atlanta United)

Credit: Kyle Hess/Atlanta United

Credit: Kyle Hess/Atlanta United

Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda looks on from the sidelines during the match against Cruz Azul at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday July 29, 2023. (Photo by Kyle Hess/Atlanta United)

When Atlanta United came out of the Leagues Cup break, it was four points from its stated goal of finishing in at least fourth place in the MLS Eastern Conference.

Despite playing better in its past four matches, going 2-1-1, it is still four points from fourth, and the probability of finishing among the best quartet is not good. It now trails Philadelphia by four points, and the Union have played two fewer matches. A good thing for Atlanta United is it will play at Philadelphia on Oct. 4.

The East standings, with points and games remaining:

1. Cincinnati, 57, 7

2. New England, 47, 8

3. Orlando, 47, 7

4. Philadelphia, 46, 8

5. Columbus, 45, 7

6. Atlanta United, 42, 6

7. Nashville, 40 7

8. Montreal, 35, 7

9. D.C. United, 33, 7

Here’s a look at the top seven teams’ remaining matches:

1. Cincinnati: at Philadelphia, at Montreal, vs. Charlotte, at Toronto, vs. the Red Bulls, at Inter Miami, vs. Atlanta United.

2. New England: at Minnesota, at Colorado, at Chicago, vs. Charlotte, vs. Columbus, at Orlando, at Nashville, vs. Philadelphia.

3. Orlando: vs. Columbus, at NYCFC, vs. Inter Miami, vs. Montreal, at Nashville, vs. New England, at Toronto.

4. Philadelphia: vs. Cincinnati, at Charlotte, vs. LAFC, vs. Dallas, at Columbus, vs. Atlanta United, vs. Nashville, at New England.

5. Columbus: at Orlando, vs. Chicago, at Dallas, vs. Philadelphia, at New England, at Atlanta United, vs. Montreal.

6. Atlanta United: vs. Inter Miami, at D.C. United, vs. Montreal, at Philadelphia, vs. Columbus, at Cincinnati.

7. Nashville: at Sporting KC, at San Jose, vs. Seattle, vs. Orlando, at Philadelphia, vs. New England, vs. the Red Bulls.

Here are my predicted final standings based upon the top seven team’s remaining matches:

1. Cincinnati, 68 points. Wins against Charlotte, at Toronto and the Red Bulls, draws at Montreal and against Atlanta United, in what will be a meaningless game for the hosts, and losses at Philadelphia and at Miami.

2. Philadelphia, 63 points. Wins at home against Cincinnati, LAFC, Dallas, Atlanta United and Nashville, draws at Charlotte and at New England and a loss at Columbus.

3. Columbus, 59 points. Wins at home against Chicago, Philadelphia and Montreal, and at New England, draws against Chicago and at Atlanta United, and a loss at Orlando.

4. Orlando, 59 points. Wins at home against Columbus, Montreal and New England, draws at NYCFC and at Toronto, with another at home against Inter Miami, and a loss at Nashville.

5. Nashville, 53 points. Wins at home against Seattle, Orlando, New England and the Red Bulls, a draw at Sporting KC and losses at San Jose and at Philadelphia.

6. New England, 52 points. A win against Chicago, a draw against Colorado and Philadelphia and losses to Minnesota, Chicago, Columbus, Orlando and Nashville. You may ask yourself why is New England going to win only five points from its remaining eight games when it has averaged 1.81 points through its first 27 matches. The franchise appears to be in disarray. Bruce Arena still is suspended with no reason given, and there was a report Tuesday that the coaching staff will be cleaned out during the offseason.

7. Atlanta United, 49 points. A win against Montreal, draws against Miami, D.C. United, Columbus and at Cincinnati, and a loss at Philadelphia.

Atlanta United will rue dropping points earlier this season to Cincinnati, which scored two late goals to win 2-1, giving up a goal in the 93rd minute to turn a 3-2 win against New England into a 3-3 draw, giving up a goal in the 89th minute at Chicago to turn a 3-2 win into a 3-3 draw, giving up a 94th minute goal by Toronto to turn a 2-1 win into a 2-2 draw.

Atlanta United may argue that it also used late goals to turn losses into draws or draws into wins. That is true. But the defensive errors made by Atlanta United on the goals it allowed were break downs of fundamentals and not world-class efforts like Thiago Almada’s two strikes to turn a loss into a draw against San Jose in the opener.

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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1

March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0

March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1

March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1

April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0

April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1

April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2

April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1

April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1

May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1

May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1

May 17 Atlanta United 4, Colorado 0

May 20 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 3

May 27 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

May 31 Atlanta United 3, New England 3

June 7 Atlanta United 0, LAFC 0

June 10 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 1

June 21 Atlanta United 2, New York City 2

June 24 New York Red Bulls 4, Atlanta United 0

July 2 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 0

July 8 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

July 12 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

July 15 Orlando City 2, Atlanta United 1

July 25 Miami 4, Atlanta United 0 in Leagues Cup

July 29 Cruz Azul 1 (5), Atlanta United (4) 1 in Leagues Cup

Aug. 20 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 0

Aug. 26 Atlanta United 4, Nashville 0

Aug. 30 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 2 Atlanta United 2, FC Dallas 2

Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 5 p.m.

Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA