Atlanta United’s attack starting to find its gears

With a little bit of consistency in the starting lineup, Atlanta United’s offense has transformed from sputtering to supercharged in a few games.

ExploreAtlanta United rallies to draw with New England

In their past three games against MLS teams across two competitions, the Five Stripes have scored eight goals and begun to show the potential that tens of millions of dollars spent on attacking talent is expected to produce. In the previous four games, it scored two. That includes Sunday’s 2-2 draw with New England.

The damage-doers are the quartet of Marcelino Moreno, Thiago Almada, Luiz Araujo and Ronaldo Cisneros, who have started each of the past three games. They have combined to score seven of the eight goals scored against New England, Nashville in the U.S. Open Cup, and Chicago.

Cisneros leads with three goals, with Almada and Araujo notching two each. Moreno, who seems to have simplified his game, leads the three-game stretch with three assists.

“I think the potential is the best in the league,” fullback Andrew Gutman said about the offense. “I mean, you look at some of these players that no other teams in the league have and we’ve just got to utilize them more. We’ve got to just be a little sharper in the final moments.”

In the past three games, Atlanta United has steadily increased shots taken from 16 to 19 to a season-high 26 against New England. It has also increased its Key Passes from 9 to 11 to tying a season high with 19 against the Revs.

The attack seems like it’s starting to hum.

“I think we understand each other really well,” Almada said. “We have really talented players, and we need to take advantage of that.”

The second goal against New England, scored by Araujo, is an example of the developing chemistry. Araujo, moved to striker following a substitution, made a darting run through the middle of the Revs’ defense. Looking for that run, Almada found him with a perfectly weighted pass. Araujo chipped it over Matt Turner to tie the game in the 63rd minute.

“The more we train together and the more we play together, the better that understanding is going to be, and we’re working on that and I think we’ll be able to score more goals,” Araujo said.

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The next step, according to Araujo, is to start winning these games in which the offense is playing well. Its next test will come at Nashville on Saturday.

And there is this: Though Cisneros leads the team with four goals scored in six appearances, manager Gonzalo Pineda said on Sunday that Josef Martinez may return “sooner rather than later.” Martinez was seen on the training pitch doing dribbling and shooting exercises last week.

Martinez, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee a few weeks ago, is ahead of schedule in rehab, according to Pineda. Martinez is the leading scorer in franchise history with 104 goals in 113 appearances. He has yet to start a game with Araujo, Almada and Moreno this season because of a variety of injuries and other factors.

“He’s a very talented player,” Almada said. “He’s a reference for our whole group. So, you know, of course we were suffering without him, but I think Ronaldo is also doing a really good job.”

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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