Atlanta United turns focus to Atlante

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Atlanta United hopes to display better defense in Saturday’s friendly at LIGA MX club Atlante.

The team gave up three goals in the first 45 minutes of the first friendly Saturday at Chattanooga.

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“I want to be very clear, yes, the standard for our defensive shape, our fundamentals, our principles, especially defending in the box, have to be better,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said Friday.

For the second consecutive preseason, the team spent the past few days training and bonding in Mexico. That time spent together may help the team improve the principles pointed out by Pineda. Pineda said the players have been doing many things as a team, including activities directed by the team’s mental strength coach Ben Freakley. He also works with MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays.

One of the activities included a player shouting out a word and another player having to use his body to make the word, according to Derrick Etienne.

“He’s doing fantastic with the players knowing each other, understanding certain things that can be very simple but can help the team in multiple ways,” Pineda said.

Etienne said he thinks the bonding is working.

“I think it’s something that definitely helps because you want to be comfortable with the guys that you’re playing with,” he said. “I think it’s very big, especially when you go to another country, that you can’t really just walk around and do whatever you want. It definitely builds team chemistry and team bonding.”

Pineda didn’t seem too concerned about the team’s performance in Chattanooga. It did score two goals, including two by Luiz Araujo, and Pineda said the team had some good movements on offense.

He also said that the players were upset in the locker room at halftime. The team had spent a lot of time working on its defense, only to give up three soft goals, which were the result of lapses, Pineda said.

“We will try to evolve from there to now begin working more on high pressure and a little bit more finer movements,” he said. “So that will be a little bit more the focus of this game.”

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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 7:30 p.m.

March 4 vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m.

March 11 at Charlotte FC, noon, Fox

March 18 vs. Portland Timbers, 7:30 p.m.

March 25 at Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

April 1 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

April 8 at New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.

April 15 at Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m.

April 23 vs. Chicago Fire FC, 4:30 p.m., FS1

April 29 at Nashville SC, 1:30 p.m., Fox

May 6 at Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.

May 13 vs. Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m.

May 17 vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m.

May 20 at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m.

May 27 at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m.

May 31 vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m., FS1

June 3 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

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez