Atlanta United focused on fitness and then tactics during break

Atlanta United's Santiago Sosa celebrates after scoring in Tuesday's game against Philadelphia. The teams were competing in the Champions League tournament.
Caption
Atlanta United's Santiago Sosa celebrates after scoring in Tuesday's game against Philadelphia. The teams were competing in the Champions League tournament.

Credit: Atlanta United

Credit: Atlanta United

Atlanta United spent most of the previous two weeks improving its fitness in anticipation of the restart of the season Sunday against Philadelphia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. That game will be the first of seven the team will play in the next 31 days.

Taking a page from the team’s preseason camp, manager Gabriel Heinze first gave the players a few days off after their 2-2 draw with Nashville on May 29, and then they began two-a-day sessions every other day for the next 10 days. The team began prepping for Philadelphia and going to back to single sessions Monday.

“Intensity of the break has been great,” fullback Brooks Lennon said. “Guys have shown up every single day and competed. To try to mimic that energy in practice is very important. When we do go back into games, guys are fit and ready to step back into MLS play.”

Atlanta United is 2-1-4 in its first seven games. Its 10 points put it in eighth place. The team is one point outside the playoff line, four points behind second-place Philadelphia and six points ahead of 14th-place Cincinnati. If it can go on a run in these next games, Atlanta United can firmly put itself in playoff scenarios. That ranks among the reasons that fitness has been a focus.

“I think my teammates and I have been doing a good job, and we are going to be good and be in better shape for the second part of the season,” midfielder Santiago Sosa said.

Lennon said many of the drills the team used during the preseason camp were used again and that because they experienced Heinze’s focus on fitness once, they were better suited for it this time.

Work on tactics began this week.

“There are times where we do Gaby’s tactics to perfection,” Lennon said. “He shows that on video. He will also pull up video where guys don’t do specific tasks. Guys can’t learn everything at once. It’s a growing process.

The team has been working on are tracking runners on defense and improving passes in the final third of the field. Atlanta United has scored nine goals in 10 games. Its expected goals average of 1.16 is in the bottom 25 percent of MLS teams.

“This week, we’ve gone back to what we have been doing, which is what we’ve always been doing,” Sosa said. “We will continue to do things the way we have.”

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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

May 9 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 1,

May 15 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

May 23 Atlanta United 1, Seattle 1

May 29 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

June 20 vs. Philadelphia, 2 p.m., ESPN

June 23 at NYCFC (at Red Bull Arena), TBD, BSSO/BSSE

June 27 vs. New York Red Bulls, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at Chicago, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 8 at Nashville, 8:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. New England, 5 p.m., ESPN

July 21 at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., FS1

July 24 vs. Columbus, 3:30 p.m., ABC

July 30 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ESPN

Aug. 4 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 7 at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 15 vs. LAFC, 4 p.m. ESPN

Aug. 18 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at D.C. United, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 28 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 10 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 18 vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 25 at Philadelphia,3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 29 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Oct. 2 at Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE