Atlanta United working to improve mental side early under Rob Valentino

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)

Atlanta United interim manager Rob Valentino said he has focused the first few training sessions since his appointment on shared ownership, shared success and sharing ideas on how the team can accomplish its goals while enjoying itself.

There has been work on tactics, but there’s been a lot of focus on the mental side.

It sounds like a lot, but it’s the result of pieces that Valentino has taken from different coaches he’s worked with at the club, starting with Gerardo Martino and continuing with Frank de Boer, Gabriel Heinze and Gonzalo Pineda.

Atlanta United, winless in its past five home matches, which was part of the reason why Pineda was fired and Valentino was promoted to interim, will host Houston on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“Everyone has an opinion on what’s going on,” he said. “But it’s on us to change it. We’re going to look forward about having that aggressive mentality. That’s on me to lead from the front and demand from the players. If we can take care of our mentality and be aggressive and intense, I think we can be in a better spot.”

That change in mentality is needed was stressed by veterans Brad Guzan and Dax McCarty, who said all the belief that Atlanta United has talent is irrelevant if that talent isn’t producing results.

“You have to have belief, you have to have to find confidence in what you’re doing every day,” McCarty said. “And obviously, it starts for me with our home form; it just it has to change. It’s unacceptable to lose five home games in a row. I don’t think it’s ever happened to at any club I’ve been at in my career. And there’s not any one specific reason for it. It’s just ... it has to be better all around from all of us, especially us as players. Our fans deserve better, especially at the Benz. So we’re going to get this thing moving in the right direction.”

As for the formation and starters and what the team has worked on, Valentino said he would be flexible to try to ensure he can get the most out of what’s available.

“I want there to be consistency, and I want there to be competition and there will be, I think, because they are competitors and they’re pros,” he said.

New assistant. Former Vancouver Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson was hired as an assistant by Atlanta United, with the move announced Thursday.

Robinson has been working with Valentino this week. The team didn’t disclose the length of Robinson’s contract.

Robinson mostly worked as an assistant manager at Birmingham City in England. Previous stops include as an assistant at D.C. United and as a head coach for two teams in Australia.

Valentino said he wanted Robinson because he felt he could challenge him as a coach and as a person because he believes that will help him get more out of the players.

“No problem saying he’s better than me in a lot of different ways,” Valentino said. “We’re going to get a lot out of him, the players are going to get a lot out of him. I’m really fortunate that they, the club, has supported us in that way and that he’s been able to come here. The immediate effect, I think, he knows exactly what the league is. So that’s really helpful.”

Availability. Attacking midfielder Thiago Almada, fullback Caleb Wiley and centerback Noah Cobb are available for Saturday’s match. They recently returned to training following appearances with their national teams.

Almada played for the Argentina Under-23s as part of their preparations for this summer’s Olympics in France. Argentina played two matches against Paraguay on June 8 and June 10. Argentina won both by a combined score of 6-0.

Cobb played for the U.S. Under-19s as part of its preparation for this summer’s CONCACAF Under-19 championship. The U.S. shut out Argentina 1-0 on June 7 in Buenos Aires and Uruguay 1-0 on June 11 in Ciudad de la Costa, Uruguay. Cobb started and played a full match against Argentina. He came on in the 61st minute against Uruguay.

Wiley played for the U.S. Under-23s as part of its preparation for the Olympics. He started and played 45 minutes in Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to Japan in Kansas City.

Centerback Stian Gregersen didn’t train with the team Thursday. He is unavailable for Saturday’s match. Winger Tyler Wolff’s availability hasn’t been decided.

Central midfielder Bartosz Slisz (Poland) and winger Saba Lobjanidze (Georgia) are at the Euros and will not be available.

Still not done. The expected sale of striker Giorgos Giakoumakis to Cruz Azul for $10 million has not been completed. Giakoumakis has yet to travel to Mexico to undergo his physical and hasn’t reported back to Atlanta United following last week’s bye.

The transfer window for LIGA MX doesn’t open until June 24, and the MLS window doesn’t open until July 18, so there’s no hurry.

Giakoumakis will not be available for Saturday’s match.

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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 9 vs. Indy Eleven in U.S. Open Cup

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.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.