Atlanta United’s Gonzalo Pineda: What else can we do?

General view during the match against Cincinnati FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday April 20, 2024. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Atlanta United)

Credit: Alex Slitz/Atlanta United

Credit: Alex Slitz/Atlanta United

General view during the match against Cincinnati FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday April 20, 2024. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Atlanta United)

Gonzalo Pineda seemed somewhere between bemused and annoyed after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Cincinnati, the second consecutive match his team has given up a lead, when asked what can be done during the next week to ensure that two blips don’t become a trend of dropped points.

“What else can we do?” he said. “We’re showing the film. We’re talking about it. We’re seeing the same things that you see: scoring a goal and then certain individual lapses or however you want to call it and then we’re conceding goals. We’re aware of it. We’re working on that. We’re showing film. And I think the process at some point has to has to pay off.”

Last week, the team lead Philadelphia 2-0, only to give up what Pineda later described as two silly goals to finish 2-2.

On Saturday, silly may be the kindest way to describe the goals Atlanta United allowed. The defeat cost Atlanta United three more points. Combined with the two dropped last week, and only winning one from its first three road matches, finishing in at least fourth in the East will be a challenge.

Atlanta United took a 1-0 lead on a fantastic goal by Thiago Almada in the 59th minute. It was a hard-fought lead.

But it was undone in the next few minutes.

The first goal allowed came from an Atlanta United corner kick. Thiago Almada tried to execute a set piece the team worked on during its preparations for the game. He attempted a short corner to the top of the 18-yard box. Either the ball wasn’t hit hard enough, or his teammates didn’t know what he was doing because it went to no one. Cincinnati’s Luciano Acosta reached it about 25 yards from goal, played it to teammate Luca Orellano who dribbled the rest of the length of the field with only Brad Guzan to beat in the 62nd minute.

“First of all, I was speechless after that,” Pineda said. “It’s disappointing. And after that probably the momentum was for Cincinnati.”

The second came on a series of mistakes that included not closing down the passer and not marking two players in the box.

“Listen, the game of soccer comes down to moments, and those can be good moments, like Thiago (Almada’s) moment of brilliance and scoring a good goal, and then we have moments where we switch off, and it is not good enough,” captain Brad Guzan said. “At this level, you will get punished and we did that in back-to-back moments, and before you know it, the game is out of sight.”

Despite Pineda subbing on Giorgos Giakoumakis and Xande Silva after Atlanta United’s first goal, the team didn’t create any significant chances to earn the draw.

“You talk about a team being able to close out a game, we had nothing from the moment (they) scored their second goal,” Guzan said. “We had nothing going forward in terms of opportunities and chances on goal.”

Guzan said the players have to start taking responsibility. Losing is never fun. Giving up a lead and losing is even more exasperating. Atlanta United worked hard during last year’s summer window and this year’s winter window to add experienced players to try to eliminate the mental lapses that have hurt the team for years.

Pineda pointed out that some of those players weren’t available for Saturday. Centerbacks Stian Gregersen and Derrick Williams, the preferred starters, were both out. Noah Cobb, a Homegrown who has played well in replacing Gregersen, was forced off at halftime because of a migraine that made his vision blurry.

However, Giakoumakis, a Designated Player, and Silva, signed last summer, were on the pitch. Dax McCarty, a 20-year MLS veteran signed during the winter, was on the bench with Jay Fortune, a Homegrown, preferred to replace Tristan Muyumba, a signing made last summer.

Pineda has almost always defended the players during tough moments or praised them during good moments since he joined the team during the 2021 season. In some of his answers on Saturday, that protection that he has provided appeared to crack.

“I think that once the ball starts to roll, it’s all on the players, the good and the bad,” he said. “I think it’s all on them. How I can affect the game - yes, a couple subs, a couple indications, being a cheerleader on the sideline, of course -- but once the ball is rolling it’s all on the players.

“They have to find ways together make that mental break, something that just happened, and then move on and continue playing the same way that we have to,” Pineda said. “But it has to come from them, honestly. I don’t feel like we have that power to send a message from the sideline to all the players on the field.”

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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 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

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.