Atlanta United’s Gonzalo Pineda said he’s concerned about recent form

Nashville SC midfielder Fafà Picault (7) heads the ball past Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon (11) during the first half of an MLS soccer match on Saturday, April 29, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Nashville SC midfielder Fafà Picault (7) heads the ball past Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon (11) during the first half of an MLS soccer match on Saturday, April 29, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said he is concerned about his team’s form, especially the past three games.

The Five Stripes (5-2-3) were beaten by Nashville 3-1 on Saturday in a match in which they put just two shots on goal, one a penalty kick. It was preceded by a 2-1 loss to USL side Memphis in the U.S. Open Cup in which they put just one shot on goal during regulation. The slide started with last week’s 2-1 victory against Chicago in which it was very sloppy, almost passive, for most of the match.

The results and eyeball test are much different than how the team started the season with 10 points from its first four games.

“I feel like we started in a very strong way,” Pineda said. “The season, the performance has dropped in probably the last week. I would say that that’s it.”

Pineda attributed the drop to key injuries which affected the team’s style. Striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, who is tied for the team lead with five goals, hasn’t been available the past two games after suffering a minor hamstring injury against Chicago.

“It’s never good to miss a guy like GG,” fullback Brooks Lennon said. “He’s been very good for us, obviously, with the numbers that he’s had in the past couple of games. But injuries do happen in professional sports. And we’ve got to have guys step up in those positions and understand that this is the opportunity to make your place in the team and create chances for yourself and hopefully goals.”

Machop Chol got the start at striker against Nashville. Normally a winger, it was Chop’s first-ever start at the position in a professional match. He didn’t have a shot in 59 minutes.

Pineda said he liked Chol’s defense. Offensively, Chol began dropping too deep, which made himself unavailable for certain passes.

“I definitely feel like there are things for me to work on, little details that I feel like I should have been more focused on,” Chol said.

The whole team’s focus in the final third was off, Pineda said.

He said that players would get into good positions but the quality wasn’t there. This was an almost constant issue last season when the team was forced to rotate player after player into positions to cover for those who suffered injuries.

However, Pineda did put into the lineup two Designated Players, Thiago Almada and Luiz Araujo, and Caleb Wiley, who started several games at left wing earlier this season. They combined for nine shots, one on target. The successful one was Almada’s penalty kick in the 72nd minute. Araujo has one assist and no goals in his past five league games.

The sequence that may best illustrate Atlanta United’s poor decision making against Nashville, and the past few games, happened early in the second half. Atlanta United created a turnover in its defensive third and started a counterattack. Araujo received the ball near midfield with teammates filling passing lanes and outnumbering Nashville’s defenders. Instead of pushing the ball up the field, Araujo hit an almost sideways pass to Chol, who was running to the right to try to stretch Nashville’s defense, that killed the momentum of the attack.

Pineda said he thought Araujo played well in the first half. They moved him more inside from right wing in the second half, which also made him more productive, according to Pineda.

“But then, a couple of decisions and the final pass, and that, we were missing,” Pineda said.

Pineda said he felt Almada and Araujo played well, overall.

Lennon said he’s not worried about the team’s form.

I think if we just button up some of the key parts of the game we’re going to come to these places and get results,” he said. “But we didn’t come here and shy away at all.”

After playing three games in seven days, Atlanta United will get a week of to rest, heal and prepare for Miami, which features former Five Stripe Josef Martinez.

“We will be ready for that one,” Pineda said.

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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 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0

April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1

April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2

April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1

April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1

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