“I see other players on other clubs telling us that the club is struggling," interim manager Stephen Glass said. "I see media people telling us the club is struggling. We’re in a playoff spot. We’ve not been great, but there’s not a lack of belief within the group that we can get where we need to be.”
There are a few things that could help the club climb from its present spot of 10th in the East.
First, the players finally got a few days off to start the week. It was their first break since crashing out of the MLS tournament July 21 in Orlando with nary a goal scored. When the schedule resumed Aug. 22, the team played six games in three weeks, ending with a draining 4-2 loss at Nashville on Sept. 12.
“I think it’ll help,” Ezequiel Barco said. “Before that we had been playing every day for a while. Two days off and a week to prepare, we have no excuses. We want to take the three points.”
Something else that will help is the cutting out the individual errors that are causing the team to leak goals, particularly on set pieces. Four of the 15 goals scored against the team have come from set pieces. That doesn’t include two scored when Atlanta United started with a dead ball. One of those came the last time Atlanta United played Miami. Atlanta United started with a corner kick. A few seconds later Miami scored. Atlanta United lost 2-1.
Glass on Thursday said the team was going to again work on defending set pieces. They changed from a man-marking system to a zonal system against Nashville. The expansion team scored within the game’s first minute on a set piece, a corner kick. The goal was the result of three individual mistakes: a turnover, a failure to track a near-post runner and a failure to track a far-post runner.
Glass said if the team can eliminate those individual mistakes, “we aren’t a million miles from where we need to be.”
The important thing, according to Glass, is there remains desire. After the humbling loss to Nashville, Jeff Larentowicz said the team had to continue to work because it hasn’t yet hit bottom.
As part of their days off, the players were asked to reflect on how they can improve. Defender Franco Escobar said he wants to improve his body language on the field. He said he recognizes that he can often look frustrated, which he said isn’t his intent.
He also asked for the supporters to come together behind the club, even if they can’t be at the stadium to watch.
“It’s a team with a lot of players who have won titles here and have given joys to the club and the city," he said. "We want to win and we’re doing our best to do that. It’s just to say that now is the time we most need everyone and not just people who are with us in the good times. We need everyone’s support.”
Atlanta United coming games
Saturday vs. Miami, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Southeast
Sept. 23 bs. Dallas, 7 p.m., Fox Sports South
Sept. 27 at Chicago, 7:30 pm., Fox Sports Southeast
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