Atlanta United focusing on scoring first, scoring early in prep for LAFC match

Atlanta United midfielder Dax McCarty (13) controls the ball during the second half against the New England Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Saturday, March 9, 2024, in Atlanta. Atlanta United won 4-1. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Atlanta United midfielder Dax McCarty (13) controls the ball during the second half against the New England Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Saturday, March 9, 2024, in Atlanta. Atlanta United won 4-1. (Jason Getz /

For a team that has produced one goal in the past 374 minutes, scoring in the first 15 minutes would seem to be a pretty big challenge, but Dax McCarty said it may be just what the team needs to get its offense going on Saturday against LAFC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“When you score an early goal, and I’m talking first five minutes, first 10 minutes, first 15 minutes, and you just really get everyone excited, and then you can go on and the other team feels that pressure, that’s such a benefit for us to be able to use that and have that,” he said.

Scoring in the first one-sixth of a match is something that Atlanta United has done once this season. It is part of the reason that the team hasn’t won a league match since March. That match in which it scored early? Atlanta United defeated Orlando 2-0 on March 17. It has one league win since.

“When a team can effectively shut us out for the first 30, 40 minutes, then they end up growing into the game more, right?” McCarty said. “And then there’s a little bit of frustration that seeps in because we haven’t scored, and we feel like we want to entertain our fans, and we want to get good results at home. And so I just think being on top of the game, pressing high defensively, being able to turn in some of those transition moments into really good goal-scoring opportunities is such an important factor for us.”

Manager Gonzalo Pineda said the messaging always has been to start aggressively and try to put the opponent under pressure.

“I’ve been mentioning that scoring the first goal gave us the most probability to win matches,” he said. “So we need to try that, especially at home. It is so important that we score first, and then normally the results are going to come.”

What Atlanta United scores first, no matter if it’s in the first 15 minutes or the last 15, it is 90-17-25, including 61-8-11 at home. It is 3-2-1 this season when it scores first this season. Conversely, Atlanta United’s opponents have scored once in the first 15 minutes this season. Atlanta United lost that match at Cincinnati 1-0 on May 15.

To get that important goal, there is at least one thing the team needs to do better: get more players into the 18-yard box. Too often this season, the team has had only one striker in the box competing with at least two centerbacks, typically three, and a goalkeeper, for a cross. Atlanta United will be without Giorgos Giakoumakis on Saturday because he is recovering from an injury.

As with being proactive, Pineda said the messaging has been to get more players into the 18-yard box to attack crosses. A problem is other than its strikers, Atlanta United doesn’t have a lot of players who are tall enough to win most aerial duals, so winning the second balls is almost as important.

Another important thing for Atlanta United is to press effectively. McCarty said when the team does, and wins the ball in the opponent’s defensive third, it’s going to lead to more effective scoring chances. He said after a rough start against Cincinnati, Atlanta United’s press of Cincinnati produced several quality chances.

“As much as everybody wants to have a 20-to-30-pass sequence in possession that leads to a beautiful goal, t he reality of the game of modern soccer now is that transition is such a big part of it,” he said. “And if we can improve on those little fine margins of being able to win the ball, high up the field, make one or two passes and be in front of goal and then finish those chances, we’re going to make our lives a lot easier.”

For more content about Atlanta United

Follow me on Twitter/X @DougRobersonAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta United News Now

On Instagram at DouglasDavidRoberson

Atlanta United coverage on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Southern Fried Soccer podcast can be found

Apple -

Spotify -

Google podcasts -

If you are listening to us for the first time, please follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcast ... and if you like what you hear, please give us a good rating so we can grow the show. If you have questions about the MLS team, you can email Doug Roberson at, DM him on Twitter @dougrobersonajc or call 404-526-2527.

Stay up to date every day on breaking news, in-depth investigations, politics, sports, entertainment, food and dining and so much more by becoming a subscriber to the AJC. Go to for a very special offer and unlock hundreds of original articles published daily on the refreshed and the new AJC mobile app. Plus, access to our news alerts, subscriber-only events, AJC original shows, films and videos, newsletters, and so much more.

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 vs. LAFC, 7:30 p.m.

May 29 at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

June 2 vs Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FOX

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

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 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.