Atlanta United has chance to regain momentum

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada (23) controls the ball against San Jose defender Carlos Akapo during the second half of their MLS season opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Atlanta. Atlanta United won 2-1. Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada (23) controls the ball against San Jose defender Carlos Akapo during the second half of their MLS season opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Atlanta. Atlanta United won 2-1. Jason Getz /

Atlanta United has a chance to regain its form because it will host five of its next seven games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where it is unbeaten this season.

The stretch starts Saturday against Charlotte and will continue Wednesday against Colorado. The games come with extra importance because the team has lost its past two MLS games and has two wins in its past six, with both victories at home.

The slide started during the international window when the team, missing seven players, was demolished at Columbus 6-1.

“I think in MLS, the momentum is pretty important, right?” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “Getting some momentum, when you have congested periods of time with a lot of games, it can dictate many things because it’s nine points on the line. So that momentum, getting that momentum in that part, I think it’s very important.”

The team’s poor results have coincided with injuries to goalkeeper (and captain) Brad Guzan, defensive midfielder Franco Ibarra and striker Giorgos Giakoumakis. The team has lost its past three games across all competition. The trio didn’t play in them.

Guzan resumed training Thursday, 4.5 weeks ahead of schedule after suffering a torn MCL. Giakoumakis, who is tied for the team lead with five goals, rejoined earlier this week and likely will be in the reserves Saturday. Ibarra is a strong candidate to be in the starting 11.

“Having guys like that with strong presence both in the locker room and on the field are important pieces to have for the team,” midfielder Amar Sejdic said.

In its past three games, which started with the loss to Memphis in the U.S. Open Cup, the team has put only nine shots on goal, but is averaging 12 chances created. Opponents have put 17 shots on goal and are averaging slightly more than 12.3 chances created.

“I think we’re going through a little bit of a bad moment,” midfielder Thiago Almada said. “But we had a good start. We’ve won our first four or five games, and we know that just because we won those four or five games, it doesn’t mean we’re the best. And now because we’ve lost a few games in a row, it doesn’t mean we’re the worst. So we’ve got a really important game on Saturday and try and get back to that.”

Pineda said he and his staff have been working on making sure the players maintain their confidence despite the recent string of poor results. It’s easier to build momentum when players are confident, he said. To that end, he said the players are being graded in the competitive aspects of training so that they feel successful.

“It’s so fragile, being in good shape with momentum, that you have to take care of that momentum once you get it,” he said. “So we need to be on top of every little detail, discipline, behaviors, culture, team behaviors, all that has to be taught because we need to maintain that.”

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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 vs. Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m.

May 17 vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m.

May 20 at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m.

May 27 at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m.

May 31 vs. New England Revolution, 7 p.m., FS1

June 7 or Sept. 13 at Los Angeles FC, 10:30 p.m.

June 10 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 21 vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.

June 24 at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

July 2 vs. Philadelphia Union, 4 p.m., Fox

July 8 at CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 12 at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m.

July 15 vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Aug. 20 at Seattle Sounders, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 26 vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 30 vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 2 at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA