Atlanta United’s focus: Dealing with pressure

Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon (11) attempts a shot against San Jose during their MLS season opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Atlanta. Atlanta United won 2-1. Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon (11) attempts a shot against San Jose during their MLS season opener at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Atlanta. Atlanta United won 2-1. Jason Getz /

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda was able to accomplish two things in Tuesday’s training session.

First, he was able to use drills to get the team’s focus back after last week’s franchise-worst 6-1 loss at Columbus.

Second, those drills also helped the team (3-0-1) prepare for the relentless pressure it will face when hosting the New York Red Bulls on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I thought today’s training session went as planned,” fullback Brooks Lennon said. “As we talked about in our team meeting this morning, the intensity that everyone brought this morning was really good to see. It’s back to what we are as a team.”

Pineda explained the drills and their purposes before Tuesday’s session began.

The first featured the players broken into three teams of six, with three in each half of the field. A fourth team surrounded the smaller field. Their job was to be used as passing outlets. The goals were pushed together so that they were back to back in the middle of the field. In the corners of the field were much smaller goals. When one team won the ball, it could combine with another team to attack the remaining team. The attacking team would try to score on one of the big goals. The defending team would try to break the pressure and get the ball into either of the smaller goals on the attacking end.

“It’s about dealing with the direct play from Red Bulls, and they overwhelm you with that aggressive pressure,” Pineda said. “They’re able to win the duel and secure the pass forward, they (the other team) has to defend at a numerical disadvantage. So if they’re ever in the chaotic environment similar to maybe that, the game can turn.”

The second drill again featured the players on a smaller field. This time, the regulation-sized goals were at either end, with the smaller goals flanking them yards behind toward the corners of the field. The teams were broken into 12 vs. 11. The 12-man team could shoot on the bigger goal. The 11-man team was supposed to try to break the pressure and shoot at the smaller goals. The idea is, during a game, the shot on the lower goal would actually be the pass into space to break Red Bulls’ pressure.

Though it’s difficult to mimic a game, Lennon said he thought Tuesday’s session was close.

“I thought what we mimicked today is not going to get more intense than the game on the weekend, whoever we’re playing,” Lennon said. “I thought what we did in training the drills the intensity was game-like.”

Lastly, the team did some small-group work that was again focused on how to break pressure. Strikers worked on hold-up play. Midfielders worked on breaking lines with passes.

Overall, Lennon said it was just good to get back on the field after last week’s debacle. Last season, Atlanta United went 2-2-1 after losing by at least two goals.

“You just want to get back on the ball, get back to competing and I think today’s session was all about winning your duels, defending the box at all costs,” Lennon said. “And it was very, very good.”

For more content about Atlanta United

Follow me on Twitter @DougRobersonAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta United News Now

On Instagram at DouglasDavidRoberson

Atlanta United coverage on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Southern Fried Soccer podcast can be found

Apple -

Spotify -

Google podcasts -

If you are listening to us for the first time, please follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcast ... and if you like what you hear, please give us a good rating so we can grow the show. If you have questions about the MLS team, you can email Doug Roberson at, DM him on Twitter @dougrobersonajc or call 770-810-5297.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a special offer for Atlanta United supporters and listeners to this podcast. If you subscribe today, you will not only get unlimited digital access to the AJC and the Sunday paper for $2.30 a week but we are also throwing in a special limited-edition Atlanta United and Atlanta Journal-Constitution scarf. So sign up now at

Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1

March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0

March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1

March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1

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