Atlanta United again looks to improve home form

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan during training camp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Tuesday, January 16, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /



Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan during training camp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Tuesday, January 16, 2024, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /

Its road form mostly sorted with seven points from the past three matches, Atlanta United is trying to apply what’s working away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium to its home matches, starting Saturday against Toronto.

Atlanta United hasn’t won a home match since defeating Chicago on March 31, an agonizing seven matches for players, coaching staff and supporters.

“That’s the challenge, right?” captain Brad Guzan said.

What has been working on the road is what Dax McCarty described as a more pragmatic approach that still is aggressive. When the team plays on the road, he said they don’t feel like they have to dominate possession or press as urgently as they do when playing at home when trying to ensure they excite the supporters. They stay compact.

The problem, as McCarty has seen it, is sometimes that desire to impress has resulted in players running themselves out of position, losing their shape and conceding easy chances and sometimes easy goals.

“We haven’t done that on the road, the last month or two, which has been really positive,” he said. “So just parlaying that good defensive form into our home form. We know we’re going to create chances, and we know we’re going to score goals. So we just have to put it all together.”

Interim manager Rob Valentino was curious to know why McCarty and centerback Noah Cobb mentioned being more pragmatic.

Valentino said he wants the players to maintain their aggressiveness while also recognizing that there are many different ways to beat an opponent.

“I don’t know if it’s like, pragmatic for me, it just makes sense to play what the game gives you,” he said. “If you need three passes to do it, do three passes. Don’t waste your time and energy to do 25 passes and then have 10 guys behind the ball and then you got to break more down. For me, it’s not like a pragmatic way, it just makes sense of what the game has given you.”

Finding an improved form is important because the team will play a stretch of seven matches in 22 days, four of which will be home. After those matches, one of which is the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup, the team will host two matches in the Leagues Cup. Atlanta United failed to advance out of its group in last year’s Leagues Cup. Getting out of the first round and competing for the trophy is among its goals this season.

McCarty disagreed with perception that the coming series of matches is a make-or-break for the team’s chances of making the playoffs. Atlanta United is in the ninth and final spot. It’s tied in points with 10th-place Orlando and one point ahead of 11th-place Philadelphia. It is 11 points behind fourth-place Charlotte. A productive run could cement Atlanta United’s playoff spot. A really good run could give it a shot at hosting a playoff match.

“We feel urgency, and we put pressure on ourselves to start picking up three points more consistently,” he said. “As it stands now, the reality is with how forgiving the season is, with how many teams make the playoffs, we’re right in the thick of the race. Make sure you understand me, we’re not happy about it. We just want to win for our fans. They haven’t seen us win in months. It’s ridiculous. I’m excited to get back home and hopefully change that.”

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 Atlanta United 2, Orlando 0

March 23 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 0

March 31 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 0

April 6 Atlanta United 1, NYCFC 1

April 14 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

April 20 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

April 27 Atlanta United 1, Chicago 1

May 4 Minnesota 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte Independence 0 in U.S. Open Cup

May 11 D.C. United 3, Atlanta United 2

May 15 Cincinnati 1, Atlanta United 0

May 18 Atlanta United 1, Nashville 1

May 21 Atlanta United 0 (5), Charleston 0 (4) in U.S. Open Cup

May 25 LAFC 1, Atlanta United 0

May 29 Atlanta United 3, Miami 1

June 2 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 2

June 15 Atlanta United 2, Houston 2

June 19 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

June 22 Atlanta United 1, St. Louis 1

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 9 vs. Indy Eleven in U.S. Open Cup

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.