Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer plays to the fans as his team arrives to play Philadelphia Union in a MLS soccer match on Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Atlanta United feeling good, need it to continue against Dallas

That positive feeling that Frank de Boer had before Atlanta United defeated New England hasn’t left him as he’s prepared his team to host Dallas on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“We want, of course, desperately a win at home,” de Boer said. “It’s good for the fans, the feeling, and also for our players.”

Lost in the team’s poor start to the season is that it is unbeaten at home in all competitions. That 2-0-2 record doesn’t shine as expected because Atlanta United hasn’t yet won an MLS game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It gave away three points with a late goal to Cincinnati and needed a late goal to save a point against Philadelphia.

Beating Dallas will be a more difficult challenge than the points earned against Cincinnati, Philadelphia or at New England.

Dallas (4-2-1) features a cadre of young starlets. They are a team that likes to play from the back and create counterattacks by pouncing on sloppy passes in the midfield. De Boer said the team has worked on its counter to Dallas’ counterattacks.

Jeff Larentowicz said the way that Atlanta United defended as a team against New England is a good sign for how it can defend Dallas.

The players seem more lively and upbeat after training sessions than they did during a stretch of seven games in less than a month at the beginning of the season.

Captain Michael Parkhurst said he doesn’t know if good attitudes produce good training sessions or good training sessions produce good attitudes. But Atlanta United’s preparation has been better than at any point this season and the players are more confident.

“I’m starting to feel better about where we are as a team,” Hector Villalba said. “That’s important for us to continue with that mentality.”

That confidence comes from the work that was part of the continuation of good training sessions the team has had since its 2-0 loss at Columbus on March 30. De Boer said the team has used the time to discuss expectations and fine-tune details on offense and defense.

“Every day we were growing in confidence,” de Boer said. “Confidence is a major impact on every sport. When you have confidence, you do 70-80 percent things automatically. If people start thinking in the game, then normally they are always too late. You get automation during drills.

We had a fantastic two weeks and you saw it against new England. We had a really good week of training again. hopefully you will see a fantastic performance against Dallas.”

Atlanta United is 1-2-2 in MLS. With five points, they are tied with New York Red Bulls and NYC FC for ninth place in the 12-team Eastern Conference. The New York teams have played one more game than Atlanta United. DC United leads the conference with 14 points in seven games.

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