Atlanta United hoping to be more clinical against Cruz Azul

Atlanta United forward Giorgos Giakoumakis (center) and teammates thanked the supporters after the game; Atlanta United defeated Colorado Rapids 4-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.
Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta United forward Giorgos Giakoumakis (center) and teammates thanked the supporters after the game; Atlanta United defeated Colorado Rapids 4-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Atlanta United must be more clinical in front of both goals if it hopes to defeat Cruz Azul and advance to the next round of the Leagues Cup, manager Gonzalo Pineda said Friday.

Each team faces a must-win scenario or its time in the inaugural tournament is over. If Atlanta United doesn’t advance, it won’t play another match until it faces Seattle on Aug. 20.

Atlanta United’s lack of execution in front of Miami’s goal and its own in Tuesday’s 4-0 loss is why it is facing this scenario. Cruz Azul also failed to put away Miami on July 21 when it had many opportunities and were forced to pay when Lionel Messi scored the winning goal on a free kick in the 94th minute.

Pineda said on offense, his team must be better at finding targets with its crosses, among other things, and on defense, the team must be better and more coordinated when it presses. He said part of of the reason why the team has had trouble is a lack of consistency in picking a starting 11 because of injuries and personnel moves.

“So those moments, that’s how the game is defined, these little moments,” Pineda said.

Though the stakes are high, Pineda said the team’s style and ideas won’t be tweaked to reflect the importance of the moment.

“That’s always the intention, it’s not always manifested in the games because of different circumstances,” he said. “But we will continue with that theme of trying to be aggressive every time.”

Striker Giorgos Giakoumakis said Atlanta United has tried to focus on what it did well against Miami because there is no time to dwell on the mistakes made. Giakoumakis didn’t name them, but three of the four goals can be attributed to individual mistakes.

He said the team has had a lot of discussions in meetings with the coaching staff and in the dressing room about the things that need to improve.

“I think that you have to be a bit more clinical, a bit more dangerous, more aggressive,” he said. “I mean, we’ve discussed already that a lot. And we hope for the best we try to overcome this period. And I believe a lot in my team and my teammates, and I think we can make it.”

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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 vs. Cruz Azul in Leagues Cup, 7 p.m.

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

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