Atlanta United has a plan for bye week before final push

Atlanta United forward Xande Silva celebrates after a goal during the first half of the match against CF Montreal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday Sept. 23, 2023. (Photo by AJ Reynolds/Atlanta United)

Credit: AJ Reynolds/Atlanta United

Credit: AJ Reynolds/Atlanta United

Atlanta United forward Xande Silva celebrates after a goal during the first half of the match against CF Montreal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday Sept. 23, 2023. (Photo by AJ Reynolds/Atlanta United)

By the time Atlanta United next plays, it will have a clearer idea if it can finish as high as second place in the Eastern Conference or if fourth will be a more realistic goal.

The Five Stripes are off this weekend. They are tied on points (49) with Columbus, Philadelphia and New England. They are all two points behind second-place Orlando. They have played one fewer matches than the Five Stripes, but they have games this week.

Philadelphia will host Dallas on Wednesday and will play at Columbus on Saturday. New England will host Charlotte and Orlando will host Montreal on Saturday.

Knowing its place in the standings, and with four of the five teams having played the same number of matches, Atlanta United will play two important matches at Philadelphia on Oct. 4 and will host Columbus on Oct. 7.

To prepare, manager Gonzalo Pineda said the team will work on balance during the next week. Players who logged a lot minutes during the past eight days during which the team played three matches will get some rest. That group includes Brooks Lennon, Caleb Wiley, Tristan Muyumba, Thiago Almada, Giorgos Giakoumakis, Miles Robinson and Luis Abram, who started all three matches.

Those who didn’t play a lot will get more work.

“We will try to balance the fitness levels,” Pineda said after Saturday’s 4-1 victory against Montreal.

As the team begins its preparations for Philadelphia, Pineda said the team will work on trying to move the ball quickly.

He anticipates that opponents will continue to try to press Atlanta United. He wants his players to be faster in how they get through the midfield and get the ball to its quick players on the flanks. The team has been very good at doing that in its past seven matches.

“We will reflect and watch the video from this game and see where we can certainly be better,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “And then later in the week we’ll start to prepare for Philly because as you mentioned it will certainly be a tough game. We know that. Anytime you go up there it’s a tough game. If we play like we know we can, we will certainly have a chance to get a result.”

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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.