Atlanta United hopes to push unbeaten streak to 13 at home

Atlanta United defender Ronald Hernandez #2 dribbles the ball during the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against Nashville SC at Geodis Park in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday May 11, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

caption arrowCaption
Atlanta United defender Ronald Hernandez #2 dribbles the ball during the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against Nashville SC at Geodis Park in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday May 11, 2022. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United will again try to show it learned lessons from a defeat, and try to push its unbeaten streak at home to 13 matches, when it hosts New England on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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With its elimination from the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday because of a 3-2 loss at Nashville, Atlanta United now can focus on trying to achieve the remaining goals set before the season.

“We had three goals going in, one of them being winning the Supporters Shield,” fullback Brooks Lennon said Friday. “So that’s our sole focus now.”

New England, the reigning Supporters Shield winner, is in 11th place with 11 points. Atlanta United, which hasn’t won the Shield, given to the team that finishes the regular season with the most points, is in seventh with 14 points. LAFC leads the race with 23 points.

To chase down LAFC, Atlanta United must start to apply lessons it is learning from tough defeats such as Wednesday’s. The team led 2-0 at halftime. It gave up a penalty-kick goal in the opening minutes of the second half, which mentally affected the players. The offense stopped doing the movements and passing that made it successful in the first 45 minutes when Thiago Almada and Luiz Araujo scored. Nashville kept applying pressure and got the equalizer as part of a secondary action following a set piece, which an inability to defend has consistently hurt Atlanta United this season. Nashville scored its winner in extra time.

Pineda and the players talked through a long video session Friday, during which he showed them moments in Wednesday’s game when they stopped taking risks. He said that on defense the team didn’t allow many chances to Nashville when the formation was organized as a 5-4-1 or 4-5-1. He said the goals came from broken plays when the team either didn’t press correctly, didn’t win a 50/50 ball or was second to a loose ball.

The teaching moments came when they discussed moments such as when to risk making a tackle, or when to perhaps move the line 10 yards back so the defense isn’t as susceptible to a long pass.

“When we were there, we were very solid,” he said. “So it’s a positive again. But obviously, the specific question is we cannot stop playing. ... What we are going to learn from this is not just for another playoff game, it’s going to be also throughout the season.”

New England, with reigning MVP Carles Gil and big striker Adam Buksa, will be a challenge for the Five Stripes, which will play without starting goalkeeper Brad Guzan (achilles), centerback Miles Robinson (achilles) and fullback Andrew Gutman (shoulder). After a poor start, the Revolution are 2-1-1 in their past four games, with eight goals scored and six allowed.

Atlanta United’s offense is starting to find its form the more that Marcelino Moreno, Ronaldo Cisneros, Araujo and Almada play together. In the past two games in which the quartet has started, the team has scored six goals. They haven’t been on the field together much because of injuries suffered by Araujo in the season opener and Cisneros arriving on loan from Chivas a few weeks later.

Pineda said that the more the players train and play together, the better the offense will be.

“It’s not magic,” Pineda said. “It takes time. They have to go through that process, but they understand better each other. And it’s not like, I just put the best players out there and they’re going to succeed. It takes time.”

Pineda and Brooks Lennon said the team is much more comfortable at home, playing on the big pitch. It is 3-0-2 at home and 1-4-0 on the road. Three of its next four are at home.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to go and get a result at home against the top team in MLS, and if we do that, we know we can stick with anyone. Whoever we play against, we can get a result,” Lennon said. “And that gives us confidence moving forward, whether it be the rest of the season or into the playoffs.”

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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

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

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

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

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

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

August 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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