Atlanta United’s 4-1 victory over Montreal sealed the club’s first playoff berth since 2021. The victory was sweet for Pineda and his players – but just one step in the right direction.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan said competing in the playoffs was “priority No. 1.” The club’s next goal is finishing as high as possible to guarantee home-field advantage in the playoffs, he said.
The top four seeded teams get home-field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. The opening round features three games, with two being played at the team with home-field advantage.
Atlanta United’s next two games will be critical for determining its seeding. The club will take on Philadelphia and Columbus – two teams that are seeded ahead of it in the playoff standings – then Cincinnati, the runaway top seed.
Guzan said he likes being on the upswing heading into the postseason – whether it’s earning points or playing against difficult opponents in coming games.
“We’ve got to be up for that challenge,” Guzan said. “Hopefully we’ll carry that confidence into the playoffs.”
Atlanta United, the Philadelphia Union, Columbus Crew and New England Revolution sit in a four-way tie for third place with 49 points. Columbus and Philadelphia have played fewer games than Atlanta United, as well, meaning they could pick up more ground in the coming weeks. Should a tiebreaker occur, the first considerations are a team’s total number of wins per match, goal differential per match and goals for per match.
Atlanta United isn’t far from catching second-seed Orlando City either. The Lions have 50 points to Atlanta United’s 49 (though Orlando plays Sunday, potentially changing their point total).
As the Five Stripes push for home-field advantage, what’s next?
Attacker Xande Silva said he plans to rest. Making the playoffs was his first goal, he said, ahead of taking a break and looking to the club’s coming games.
Pineda’s first priority is balancing players’ workload after a week with three games. Players are fatigued, he said, and he wants to ensure they don’t compete too much.
Pineda also said he plans to work on speed once the Philadelphia game is closer. As more teams try to press Atlanta United, he said players have to be faster when disrupting the midfield.
There were several positives for Pineda on Saturday – from cracking the playoffs to what he viewed as a successful attacking and defensive performance. But he’s sure the club has more exciting moments in its future.
“(I) still have my coffee,” Pineda said. “Once we win a trophy, then maybe champagne.”