Atlanta United enters an important week of training

Atlanta United Interim Head Coach Rob Valentino on the sideline during the first half of the match against the Houston Dynamo FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday June 15, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United Interim Head Coach Rob Valentino on the sideline during the first half of the match against the Houston Dynamo FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday June 15, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Undefeated as Atlanta United’s interim manager after playing three matches in eight days, Rob Valentino enters a traditional week. He will analyze how the team played and start making tweaks for this week’s singular match against Toronto at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

It will be an important week because after Toronto, Atlanta United will enter another busy stretch with six matches in 18 days that will likely determine if the team makes the playoffs. Focus between those matches will be mostly on rest and recovery and less on tactics.

Valentino said the staff is always reflecting on how they can improve as a team. An important part of is trying to develop each individual player by ensuring that there is purpose to each segment in each training session.

“They’ve shown us something that we maybe didn’t see before,” Valentino said. “And now they have to keep that standard.”

Valentino said that assistant Carl Robinson, hired after Valentino was promoted, has been invaluable in that area.

“I think he’s bringing exactly what I thought and they (the staff) all are, and I just singled him out because of his experience in moments like this,” he said.

Valentino has already shown a willingness to be tactically flexible, which is something that President Garth Lagerwey hoped for when the promotion was announced.

In Saturday’s 1-1 draw at St. Louis, the team started with two strikers and another winger who was effectively a third striker, and three centerbacks. Midway through the second half, Valentino and the staff switched to one striker in order to add another midfielder to blunt St. Louis’ attacks.

In last Wednesday’s 1-0 win at D.C. United, the team played with three centerbacks but used one striker. In Valentino’s first game, a 2-2 draw with Houston, the team played with a back four.

Getting five points from three matches has moved Atlanta United from 13th in the East into ninth. That 1.6-points-per-match pace, had it been maintained from the start of the season, would see the team in sixth and challenging for a top-four spot.

However, Atlanta United is averaging 1.1-points-per-match may not be enough to keep Atlanta United above the playoff line, which is why it needs to maintain its pace from the past three matches and this week’s training sessions will be so important.

Some of the focus goes back to Valentino saying he has seen persistence, commitment and relentlessness from the team, and will need more.

Midfielder Jay Fortune said they are ideas the players have focused on.

“We don’t want to let the fans down or families down, teammates, staff and whatnot,” he said. “So those words, I mean, it’s something that is going to be talked about a lot in our group, and something that we all can do, and we’re all gonna focus on for the rest of the year.”

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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.