Atlanta United vs. Pachuca: Things to watch

Atlanta United forward Ronaldo Cisneros is very familiar with Pachuca from his time with Chivas in LIGA MX. (Daniel Varnado/for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Atlanta United forward Ronaldo Cisneros is very familiar with Pachuca from his time with Chivas in LIGA MX. (Daniel Varnado/for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Atlanta United will host Pachuca on Tuesday in the inaugural American Family Insurance Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The friendly is supposed to be the first of what the MLS club is planning to become an annual event against different opponents.

Though there is a trophy on the line, it seems that Atlanta United will treat the game not as seriously as it might treat a league game.

ExploreSouthern Fried Soccer: Previewing Atlanta United vs. Pachuca

It will be the team’s first game since losing to Columbus 2-1 on May 28 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It returns to league play when it hosts Miami on Sunday.

Though he said that Josef Martinez and Caleb Wiley are now 90-minutes fit, manager Gonzalo Pineda said he will likely use two different 11s on Tuesday because the team is also looking ahead to Sunday’s home game against Miami. Among the younger players that Pineda said he wants to watch are Raimar, Ajani Fortune and Aiden McFadden, who may join the senior team for a few games because of injuries to Ronald Hernandez and Andrew Gutman, and Erik Centeno.

“It can be a good opportunity for the young talented players to face a different type of opponent,” Pineda said.

More things to watch:

Faces in new places. Pineda said the team has trained using Ronaldo Cisneros as a winger because he can play inside or outside. Cisneros, on loan from Chivas, leads the team with four goals. Cisneros can also play as a second striker, which is another tactical tweak that Pineda said the team has been working on.

“Ronaldo can give us that flexibility and not necessarily straightforward two flat-out forwards out there,” Pineda said. “But we can have different types of movements to help the team.”

The experiments may also be the result of the team being forced to play its next three league games without attacking midfielder Thiago Almada because of a red card, and the injuries to Gutman and Hernandez. Wiley can play on the left wing but will likely be slotted in as the left fullback. Because the team traded Jake Mulraney to Orlando weeks ago, it has no true left winger other than Marcelino Moreno. With Almada’s suspension, the team could either slot Moreno in as attacking midfielder, a position he has played many times, or keep him on the left and use Emerson Hyndman as an attacking midfielder.

“It’s a position that not only have I trained it here, sometimes in the last two weeks, but it’s a position that I’m very familiar with from in Mexico, playing as a left winger,” Cisneros said. “It’s a position that I like because you get the ball facing goal, as opposed to always having your back to goal. So while here so far I’ve played mostly as a number nine (striker). It’s a position that I’m very familiar with.”

What team has worked on. The team has spent a good deal of the last two weeks’ training sessions focusing on the positives from its first 13 games.

“If we improve those positives, we’re going to get better results rather than fixing the wrong things,” Pineda said. “It’s a balance of reiterating and encouraging the good things we have done, which are a lot. And then, obviously, fixing a few things of the details that we think can help us to close down the games.”

Regarding the negatives, which include defending set pieces, Pineda said more than tactics or shapes the team has been trying to improve its mentality.

“Little details like total concentration in every play, every pass matters, every duel matters,” he said.

Pineda said the team has also trained to improve in certain situations, such as when to press, and when to recognize that booting the ball down the field or simply out of bounds is OK.

Pachuca. The Mexican club is coming off a fantastic season in LIGA MX. It advanced to the Clausura finals, where it was defeated in two legs by Atlas for the title. It will be missing several key players who are with Mexico’s national team but has enough quality that it defeated Austin 4-1 on Saturday in a friendly.

The club is led by Guillermo Almada, who is considered one of the better coaches in North, Central and South America.

The club likes to press and is typically very aggressive.

Cisneros is very familiar with Pachuca from his time with Chivas in LIGA MX.

“I think it’s going to be a nice game against a great team, a great team who’s shown that they’ve been doing things really well,” Cisneros said. “They have a really good coach. So we know that it’ll be really a quality test for us but also a chance for us to show the quality that we have on the team.”

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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 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

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, 5:30 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

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE