Atlanta United needs better defense because schedule getting tougher

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda smiles at the fans as the team arrives at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face Colorado Rapids on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.
Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda smiles at the fans as the team arrives at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face Colorado Rapids on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda is convinced that the team’s habit of leaking goals – 28, second most in MLS – simply is a matter of improving concentration.

The next test in a season-long exam will come Wednesday at LAFC, which has scored 23 goals in 12 matches.

“I feel it’s more key moments where we are not alert enough or we don’t pay attention to little details,” he said.

Pineda said he has examined all of the goals allowed by the club and sorted them into categories. He said the club has given up only one goal in transition. It came against Nashville. He said the majority of goals come from restarts, and some near midfield, which he described as very poor. New England’s third and tying goal in Wednesday’s 3-3 draw started with a free kick near midfield.

“That’s something that we work on every day to try and get better,” goalkeeper and captain Brad Guzan said. “And, obviously, we need to improve on that area of the field.”

Pineda said the training sessions last weekend, during which they worked on blocking crosses and defending restarts, were very spirited. He said he was very pleased with the results.

Atlanta United needs to fix its habit of giving away goals because its schedule is getting tougher. The team is in sixth place in the East, with 24 points from 16 matches. Its remaining opponents have earned an average of 25.2 points. That total is enough to be in the top five in the East or top four in the West. That average is the highest among the clubs that are within three points of Atlanta United in the race to earn one of the nine playoff spots. Atlanta United’s goal is to finish in the top four so that it can host a playoff game. It trails fourth-place New England by three points.

“Every game in this league is difficult, whether you’re playing a team at the top or the bottom,” Guzan said. “So, we are focused on LAFC. And yeah, we’re focused on those points. And then we’ll take the games as they come after 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 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 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

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