Atlanta United ‘committed’ and ‘motivated’ for final three matches

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda almost was giddy when talking about his team’s final three games.

Already guaranteed a playoff berth, the Five Stripes will play fifth-seeded Philadelphia on Wednesday and fourth-seeded Columbus on Saturday and will finish with Supporters Shield-winner Cincinnati on Oct. 21.

If Atlanta United wins those three matches, it will finish in at least fourth place, which was its goal before the season, and earn home-field advantage in the best-of-three opening series.

What better mental and physical preparation for the postseason?

“I will say that just being part of those matches, with that intensity, with that mentality of playing finals, I think is perfect to have success in the playoffs,” Pineda said.

After Atlanta United was bounced out of the Leagues Cup, when it wasn’t playing well and hadn’t yet guaranteed itself a playoff spot, Pineda said the team’s next 10 matches were going to be like 10 finals. The team, with the help of one of the better transfer windows in franchise history, is 4-1-2 in the first seven matches. The only match it lost, against Cincinnati, happened because of two late goals by the visitors.

So, focus isn’t a worry.

Pineda said watching the team play its past seven matches and watching it train during the past week has reaffirmed that the players are motivated. Pineda now wants to see, again, that they are committed by taking the nine points and finishing in the top four.

“Now that it’s in our hands, I can see that the players are committed,” Pineda said. “And that’s the most important part.”

Captain Brad Guzan said there is no extra motivation from realizing that the team controls its future.

“We know that we want to try to be on the up going into the playoffs. We’ve got three games. If we win those three games, then that comes with its own little reward,” he said. “So it’s not an extra motivation. It’s hopefully something we can achieve.”

It won’t be easy.

The Union have defeated Atlanta United three consecutive times at Subaru Park and have lost once in 15 matches at home this season. However, Philadelphia has drawn in five consecutive matches. It’s competing for the same playoff advantage as Atlanta United.

“It’s going to be a proper game; it’s going to be a battle,” Guzan said. “And we need to make sure we earn the right to play the style we want, and you earn that right by rolling your sleeves up and being ready for the fight and being ready for the battle because if you’re not going to do that part, then the soccer side is not going to come with it.”

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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 Atlanta United 5, Inter Miami 2

Sept. 20 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 1

Sept. 23 Atlanta United 4, Montreal 1

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

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

Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, 6 p.m.

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