Pineda’s confidence was interesting, if not oddly placed.
Yes, the team will have Thiago Almada, named the MLS Young Player of the Year, back after he was suspended for Game 1 after picking up two yellow cards on Decision Day against Cincinnati. Almada explained what happened in the game, saying he’s not used to receiving yellow cards and had forgotten that he had received one in the first half when he purposefully committed the second foul that earned the second yellow.
Having Almada back should help “speed up” the offense, which Pineda said was a problem in Game 1. Pineda said the team would get into positions to take advantage of Columbus’ defense but simply didn’t.
“....How he can connect with others to make them also boost their own individual performances so I think he’s going to be pivotal for for that part of the field, being creative and having more punch in the attack,” Pineda said.
Knowing they must win, Pineda said the team won’t hold back with its formation or tactics. Partially because the team didn’t have Almada for Game 1, and partially because of the Crew’s preference to attack through the middle, Pineda set up his team with three centerbacks and three midfielders to try to clog the middle. He said in Game 2 they are going to be “all in.”
“We have to give everything the best we have,” he said. “The best mental performance we have, the best individual performance, the best collective performance, defensive performance as well so we have to put the best of the best that we have on the field, regardless of the opponent, of the lineup that I choose or the formation, we have to give the best.”
Pineda said the players appear ready. He liked the energy he saw during Monday’s training session at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta United will need it - and then some - as it looks to defeat Columbus for the first time this season.
And avoid seeing the season come to an end.
“Columbus is a good team,” Almada said. “But we know that we’re playing at home. We’re going to try and do what we always do: Try to be on the ball control the game and attack. And we expect to win.”
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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 Cruz Azul 1 (5), Atlanta United (4) 1 in Leagues Cup
Aug. 20 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 0
Aug. 26 Atlanta United 4, Nashville 0
Aug. 30 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1
Sept. 2 Atlanta United 2, FC Dallas 2
Sept. 16 Atlanta United 5, Inter Miami 2
Sept. 20 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 1
Sept. 23 Atlanta United 4, Montreal 1
Oct. 4 Philadelphia 3, Atlanta United 2
Oct. 7 Atlanta United 1, Columbus 1
Oct. 21 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2
Nov. 1 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 0