Atlanta United’s Gonzalo Pineda admits team’s momentum has been halted

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda. File photo by Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda. File photo by Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

If is a nasty word in soccer. If Atlanta United had beaten New England on Wednesday night, it would have gone into Saturday’s match against Orlando in Mercedes-Benz Stadium tied for second in the Eastern Conference. If it had beaten Orlando as well, it would have sole possession of that spot.

If.

Instead, the momentum Atlanta United accumulated through going unbeaten in nine of 10 games has evaporated. The Five Stripes gave up an early 1-0 lead to drop a frustrating 2-1 decision to Orlando, their second 2-1 loss in four days. Atlanta United heads into a month-long MLS break in seventh place, looking up at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Manager Gonzalo Pineda admitted the momentum from the unbeaten stretch was gone.

“Talking about the would-haves and the could-haves and all that, at times it’s not easy,” he said. “But it could have been a very good stretch the last four games without the big injuries, it could have been something important for us before going to Leagues Cup. Didn’t happen. So now we have to move on, regroup … and then come back stronger.”

Atlanta United has struggled in each third of the field. The team’s attack has been one of the best in the league, but they’ve struggled to score in the last two games, needing 93 minutes in Foxborough and an open net against Orlando. Some of this can be attributed to missing Giorgos Giakoumakis, but Saturday, there were few clear chances regardless.

A leaky defense seemed to be turning a corner with back-to-back clean sheets against Philadelphia and Montreal, but recently, it has returned to its old ways.

On the second goal, midfielder Matheus Rossetto and center back Luis Abram pressured Orlando City midfielder Mauricio Pereyra, while the wing backs and center back Juan Jose Purata dropped back. Striker Duncan McGuire was left onside through the middle for what proved to be an easy winning goal.

For the rest of the season, Pineda said the number one required improvement was from his defense.

“If there’s pressure on the ball, we have to be compact,” Pineda said. “If there is no pressure on the ball, we have to drop. But there was pressure on the ball from the midfielders, the backline has to compress the space. That’s one of our main principles.”

Atlanta United has allowed 39 goals, second-worst in MLS. Only Charlotte has been worse.

Midfielder Amar Sejdić sees the losing streak as adversity.

“It’s just the way the game goes,” Sejdić said. “Sports, you have these things that kind of go up and down in seasons, and it’s just a matter of how can you adapt to the adversity and learn from it. Just kind of take those losses and use them as fuel.”

He admitted the loss was upsetting, especially in a period of three games in eight days. The team wanted to leave with nine points, but after the defeats, ended with three.

“At the end of the day, we just have to pick up from where we left off when we come back to start training and have to work a little bit harder to succeed where we want to,” Sejdić said.

Atlanta United doesn’t have another MLS game until August 20. They have ten days off until facing Inter Miami in the Leagues Cup.

Sejdić said that the club expects to win trophies, and Pineda is looking for a good Leagues Cup campaign. Pineda also made Atlanta United’s MLS ambitions clear, though he believes summer signings could be necessary.

“In August and the last 10 games of the season, we can ramp it up to be in the top four,” Pineda said. “That’s the objective. We’ll have to work a lot because there are certain little details that still we’re missing and we’re working, working, but we’re hoping, with the new personnel, we can improve.”

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