Atlanta United’s attention is on holding a lead as it prepares to face Cincinnati

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada (10) avoids landing on Philadelphia defenders after a shot during the second half against the Philadelphia Union on Sunday, April 14, 2024.  Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada (10) avoids landing on Philadelphia defenders after a shot during the second half against the Philadelphia Union on Sunday, April 14, 2024. Miguel Martinez /

If Atlanta United can get and keep a lead against defensively robust Cincinnati on Saturday, then manager Gonzalo Pineda said his team will have learned a valuable lesson.

The Five Stripes gave up a two-goal lead in Sunday’s draw at home with Philadelphia.

“The reward didn’t come. Not for me, for them,” Pineda said. “They are the ones that play. I felt for them. They should have rewarded themselves. But hopefully, it’s a good lesson for everyone to learn how to do better, how to make sure after the lead ... we’re able to consolidate the game and not just maintaining the advantage, but why not increasing that? That’s for me the main lesson, and hopefully we learn from it and we move on.”

Pineda said the team created enough chances to put away Philadelphia, but it didn’t take advantage. He said not doing so isn’t a result of his player’s inexperience or lack of chemistry playing together. It just didn’t happen, which is what made giving up two quirky goals to Philadelphia that much more frustrating.

“I think when you look at the overall game, our football was good,” captain Brad Guzan said. “In other areas, in terms of second balls, in terms of attentiveness, and whether it’s the middle third, the defensive third, even the the final third, those areas can be better.”

Even if Giorgos Giakoumakis returns, scoring two goals against Cincinnati will be tough. Featuring former Atlanta United player Miles Robinson, Cincinnati is tied with Atlanta United and the Red Bulls for the fewest goals allowed (7) this season.

Cincinnati is struggling to score, posting only eight goals in eight matches. But it features attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta, who has torched Atlanta United with eight goals and five assists in 15 matches.

Acosta is tough to defend because sometimes he looks for space where he can eventually receive the ball, rather than immediately going to the ball. It makes him hard to track. When he does receive the ball, he often sees plays developing that others don’t, and he has the technical ability to play the pass, complete the dribble or make the shot.

“He’s (Acosta) tough to defend against because he’s a really good player, a smart player. He can change direction fast and is a really good player, like a few players in this league,” Atlanta United midfielder Tristan Muyumba said. “So I think if we want to try to block him, we are going to need everyone, not just one player.”

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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 vs. Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

April 27 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.

May 4 vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.

May 11 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

May 15 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

May 18 at Nashville, 1:30 p.m.

May 25 vs. LAFC, 7:30 p.m.

May 29 at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

June 2 vs Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., Fox

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 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.