Atlanta United still trying to eliminate mental lapses

While Atlanta United’s offense is starting to develop a chemistry and confidence that is producing goals, the defense is still switching off in crucial moments that opponents are punishing.

ExploreOffensive attack starting to find its gears

It happened twice in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with New England at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The first – a turnover in its third of the field, something manager Gonzalo Pineda said on Friday shouldn’t happen – eventually led to Adam Buksa putting a shot through goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth’s legs.

On the second, centerback Alan Franco wandered away from Buksa, leaving him open at the back post to receive a cross and score to give the Revs a 2-1 lead in the 55th minute.

“The goals we have conceded are just too easy, maybe just a lack of focus in those really crucial moments,” centerback Alex De John said.

The team was eliminated by Nashville in the U.S. Open Cup last week because of such moments. It has given up seven goals from set pieces, or moments following set pieces, because of lapses.

Pineda said after the Nashville game he hoped his team would learn from those moments. But then it happened again against New England.

“I feel that the team is just as strong mentally, but we have ups and downs throughout the game,” he said. “And that’s what we need to learn to be more consistent in the killer mentality that we always talk about.”

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The other issue regarding concentration – the team tends to shut down when something bad, such as allowing a goal, happens. Atlanta United was dominating until New England scored its first goal in the 30th minute. Then, according to Pineda, it stopped playing and the opponent began to assert control.

That shutting down has happened several times this season, including after Miles Robinson’s injury against Chicago and Andrew Gutman’s injury at Nashville.

“I think we were a little bit naive in that sense,” De John said. “I think that we’ve got really good players. We’re a good team that wants to win championships. It’s never going to be as easy as we’re going to win 3-0 every game, we’re going to face adversity, we’re going to get scored upon.

“It’s just our character and reaction and how we can, you know, react to those situations, and it’s more or less, OK, let’s not put our head down but let’s get up.”

De John said at halftime Pineda got after his players, telling them to keep attacking throughout the game. In a good sign, after Buksa’s second goal, Luiz Araujo scored eight minutes later to tie the game.

“Those are the kind of reactions we need a little bit different than the first half,” De John said.

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX

May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs. Miami, 3 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

Aug. 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1

Aug. 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

Aug. 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas