Atlanta United players take responsibility for Gonzalo Pineda’s firing

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan #1 during the first half of the match against Orlando City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday March 17, 2024. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Atlanta United)

Credit: Alex Slitz/Atlanta United

Credit: Alex Slitz/Atlanta United

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan #1 during the first half of the match against Orlando City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday March 17, 2024. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Atlanta United)

Neither Atlanta United captain Brad Guzan nor fullback Brooks Lennon could pinpoint what went wrong under manager Gonzalo Pineda, but both said the players share the responsibility for his termination last week.

Pineda was fired June 3 after a 3-2 loss to Charlotte at Mercedes-Benz Stadium that extended the team’s home winless streak to five matches. The team had only one win in 11 matches. Rob Valentino was named the interim manager by President Garth Lagerwey.

“It takes everyone, and we’re all in it together,” Guzan said. “The unfortunate side of it is the business side of it. And these things are part of the professional game. We obviously take a tremendous amount of that responsibility. We’re the ones on the field, we’re the ones that have to perform, and we’ve not been doing that.”

Atlanta United will host Houston on Saturday. The Five Stripes have one win in their past 11 league matches. They are in 13th place in the East, three points behind in the chase for the ninth and final playoff spot.

“I think it’s everyone’s responsibility, the results that have unfortunately happened this season,” Lennon said. “We’re obviously all holding ourselves accountable for everything that’s happened. We’ve just got to move on. Now it’s time to look forward.”

Lennon and Guzan both pointed to a lack of goals as a reason that Pineda was fired. The team scored 22 goals in its first 16 matches. It ranks fourth in the East and eighth in MLS in expected goals (25.5) this season.

Tuesday’s training session was the third under Valentino. Most of the session was spent creating 2-on-1 matchups and finishing.

“I don’t think that we were necessarily going out there and getting rolled over,” Lennon said. “I don’t think I can think of a single game where I walked off the pitch and the team completely, 100% outperformed us. The effort was there. And I think that the final product lacked at times, and that’s something that we’re working on now in the break and going into Houston is finishing our chances because I think in a lot of those games, the results would have been a little bit different if we would have finished our chances.”

Though Lagerwey last week and the players Tuesday mentioned simplifying things, they also said that Pineda’s tactics weren’t hard to understand. Lennon said that Pineda was smart tactically and that players understood what was expected. He said perhaps it just wasn’t the right time for Pineda in Atlanta.

Guzan said it simply came down to the players not producing.

“We’re in a results-driven business, and we weren’t getting results,” he said. “Simple.”

Missing. Giorgos Giakoumakis didn’t report to training Tuesday, which isn’t surprising. Negotiations between the club and Cruz Azul for the transfer of the striker are still ongoing, despite reports last week that the move was done for $10 million.

Goalkeeper Josh Cohen didn’t participate in Tuesday’s session because of back spasms. His status is day to day. Cohen started Atlanta United’s past two matches. Guzan said that Cohen starting against Charlotte doesn’t provide him with more motivation to get the starting job back. He said his motivations are internal. Guzan started the first 14 league matches this season.

Also missing Tuesday because of calls-ups to their national teams were attacking midfielder Thiago Almada (Argentina), central midfielder Bartosz Slisz (Poland), winger Saba Lobjanidze (Georgia), fullback Caleb Wiley (U.S.) and centerback Noah Cobb (U.S.). Almada, Cobb and Wiley are expected to return later this week ahead of Saturday’s match.

Centerback Stian Gregersen worked out individually as he works his way back from an hamstring injury suffered against Charlotte.

Winger Tyler Wolff did participate in his return from an MCL sprain in his right knee that sidelined him in early May.

Assistant. Former Vancouver manager Carl Robinson assisted Valentino with Tuesday’s training session. Robinson hasn’t yet been hired by the club. Matt Lawrey, formerly the team’s academy director, also assisted.

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 Atlanta United 2, Orlando 0

March 23 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 0

March 31 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 0

April 6 Atlanta United 1, NYCFC 1

April 14 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

April 20 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

April 27 Atlanta United 1, Chicago 1

May 4 Minnesota 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte Independence 0 in U.S. Open Cup

May 11 D.C. United 3, Atlanta United 2

May 15 Cincinnati 1, Atlanta United 0

May 18 Atlanta United 1, Nashville 1

May 21 Atlanta United 0 (5), Charleston 0 (4) in U.S. Open Cup

May 25 LAFC 1, Atlanta United 0

May 29 Atlanta United 3, Miami 1

June 2 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 2

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.