Atlanta United hopes to increase intensity against Nashville

Atlanta United's Ronaldo Cisneros (left) and Brooks Lennon will try to hand Nashville its first loss in its new stadium when the teams meet Wednesday. (Daniel Varnado/for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Atlanta United's Ronaldo Cisneros (left) and Brooks Lennon will try to hand Nashville its first loss in its new stadium when the teams meet Wednesday. (Daniel Varnado/for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Atlanta United will get its first look at the newest stadium in MLS, GEODIS Park, when it plays at Nashville in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday.

Nashville has played two games in its $345 million home, tying Philadelphia 1-1 in its opener and defeating Real Salt Lake 2-0 last weekend.

ExploreAtlanta United’s Alex De John ready to be next player up

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said he wants to be the first visiting team to chalk up a victory in the 30,000-seat stadium, the largest soccer-specific stadium in the U.S.

It will require intensity throughout the game, he said.

“It’s (GEODIS) a beautiful stadium,” he said. “The atmosphere in the stadium seems to be nice. And you know, we want to be the first team to have a victory against them in the stadium. That’s up to us. So that’s the mentality I want to have with the players is we have to be the first team that beats Nashville in their new stadium.”

Centerback Alex De John, who likely will start in place of Miles Robinson after he underwent season-ending surgery on his ruptured left Achilles tendon Monday, said he is looking forward to what should be a fun atmosphere.

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“Those are when the best games are made, when everything’s kind of against you and all the adversity is against you, and you got to show up and bring the game,” he said.

Atlanta United did that in the first half of last week’s 4-1 win against Chicago.

The first 45 minutes were among the team’s best this season. Led by Ronaldo Cisneros’ hat trick, the team overcame the shock of losing Robinson in the 14th minute to score two of its three goals in the first half and then managed the second half well enough to secure three points. Pineda said the team’s third goal in the first half was his favorite because it involved quick passing up the middle.

“That’s the type of football that I really like,” he said.

Pineda said he didn’t like his team’s tempo in the second half. He said there were too many turnovers in its half. It needs to be aggressive throughout the game.

That will be necessary against a very good Nashville team that features Walker Zimmerman, a Lawrenceville native and the MLS Defender of the Year last year, and Hany Mukhtar, a candidate for MVP last season who has two goals and two assists this season.

Stopping Zimmerman on set pieces will be a key for Atlanta United, which gave up its sixth goal this season from set pieces in last week’s win. The goal didn’t come from the first pass, a corner kick. It came after the ball was cleared, and Pineda thought his players relaxed because the danger seemed over. Chicago’s Xherdan Shaqiri was left unmarked. Chicago won the cleared ball. It was passed to Shaqiri, who played a simple cross for a teammate to tap the ball into the goal.

Pineda said the team was going to work on improving its concentration regarding winning the second balls during Tuesday’s training session.

“I think the one thing that we’ve been focusing on is set plays – just it’s more of an attitude than anything else, desire to win the ball, desire to block people, desire to win the second balls,” De John said. “We have guys that can easily compete in the air with (Zimmerman). Obviously, he’s a great guy, a great scorer, and great in the air, but it’s all about attitude and mentality, and we’ve got to measure up to the intensity.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 vs. New England, 1:30 p.m., ESPN

May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX

May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs. Miami, 3 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

Aug. 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1

Aug. 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

Aug. 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

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