Atlanta United ready for crucial final three matches

Gonzalo Pineda said on Monday he was happy with Atlanta United’s preparations last week for its upcoming crucial three-game stretch.

The Five Stripes face Philadelphia Wednesday, Columbus Saturday and Cincinnati Oct. 21. Wins in all three games will secure at least fourth place in the Eastern Conference - and home-field advantage in the best-of-three opening round of the MLS playoffs.

“The intensity in the training session is getting better and better,” Pineda said. “The performance in the training sessions by everyone has been outstanding.”

After the 4-1 victory over Montreal Sept. 23, Pineda said the team would spend the next week resting players who have logged heavy minutes in recent games while ramping up the intensity in workouts for those who haven’t played as much recently.

The team also played to work on its ball handling against pressure defenses, something it expects to face Wednesday against Philadelphia.

“We need to be able to reset and restart from those chaotic moments,” Pineda said. “By trying or aiming to dominate possession, which is always trying to get the control of the game based on our possession -- but from there not just being content or happy just with possession in deeper areas -- we have to be able to disrupt that pressure and progress the ball faster in the attacking half. So that’s what we’ve been working on.”

With the exception of Machop Chol, the players are healthy and available. Chol is expected to be out two months with a leg injury, Pineda said.

Defensively, the team has worked on maintaining attention at all times. Montreal’s goal was scored from a simple ball over the top, followed by a cut-back cross to an untracked runner.

“We have to try to aim for the perfect game in terms of defending those type of situations and tracking runners inside the box and attention on those second balls and crosses from far and balls into the channel in those defensive situations,” Pineda said.

Atlanta United defeated Philadelphia 2-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season. It was a match in which Atlanta United took control from the start, rather than waiting, team captain Brad Guzan said.

He thinks they are ready to do the same again on Wednesday.

“We know they’re big games for us in terms of where we can finish the season and what those different spots entail,” he said. “So we’re excited for the challenge ahead.”


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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 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, 6 p.m.

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