Atlanta United targets fixes ahead of Minnesota United

Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino opened his weekly news conference by saying he’d like to be able to say the team will be going for its second win Sunday at Minnesota United.

Instead, his team will be looking for its first points after losing to the New York Red Bulls 2-1 because of two goals allowed in the final 15 minutes last week at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“ … we are ready to play against Minnesota and do what we did well (last week) this week,” he said.

The team’s offense created plenty of chances. Martino said the Red Bulls’ goals could be credited to individual mistakes that may be the result of a lack of focus and the specific experience of playing together.

He thinks the ability to finish games can be worked on during practice, including learning how to play together.

“We can’t say that we don’t have any experience,” he said. “All of the players, individually and the coaching staff, have experience. What we don’t have is experience playing together and being together as a group. But we are focused on the idea of how to finish games.”

The beginning wasn’t an issue. Atlanta United controlled the tempo for most of the game. According to information provided by Opta, the only two 15-minute segments in the game in which the Red Bulls controlled the possession more than Atlanta United came in the first 30 minutes of the second half.

It was surprising considering the quality of New York, coupled with the fact that Atlanta United’s squad consists of only a few pairs of players who have competed on the same team and had only four exhibition games to try to develop the chemistry and communication that the players on other MLS teams have had years to fine-tune.

“It’s something we’ve talked about in the locker room,” said midfielder Yamil Asad, who scored the team’s first goal. “The guys have their own individual experiences, but we are coming together. It’s something we can improve upon in the next few weeks.”

Minnesota United will present different challenges than did the Red Bulls, arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference the past two seasons.

The Loons, as they are also called, are an expansion team, too. While Atlanta United was on the verge of a win in its debut, Minnesota United was blown out by Portland 5-1 in its debut.

“We know they are able to do some good things,” Martino said. “We can’t expect the same performance from Friday. There were moments, especially in the first half, that they looked well.”

Atlanta United will be at almost full strength. While Carlos Carmona will be suspended because of the red card he received last week. Leandro Pirez, who was subbed because of an injury, has been training. Martino said Jeff Larentowicz may slide into the holding midfielder role in place of Carmona.

“We had a good performance on Sunday,” Michael Parkhurst said. “I’m pleased with a lot of the things we did. We know with time we will learn now to play with a lead. We didn’t do a good job of keeping the ball in the second half.”