Atlanta United’s offense playing well while defense is shaky

With its offense finding form, with eight goals scored in its past three games, Atlanta United must hope the defense can also find some consistency, starting with Saturday’s game at Nashville.

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Atlanta United’s defense gave up two bad goals Sunday in a 2-2 draw with New England and two more in a 3-2 loss at Nashville in the U.S. Open Cup four days earlier. That’s been a theme to the season.

Manager Gonzalo Pineda declined to single out a position or group Thursday when asked about the mistakes being made. Instead, he said he views the defense as a team effort because of the style and tactics he prefers.

“The best weapon we have to defend is the attack,” he said. “If we attack multiple times and out of 120 actions, we are attacking 90 or 100 actions, we only have to worry about 20 or 30, and then we will worry just less, so that’s the mentality of what the team has.”

The team had to replace its starting goalkeeper and one of its two centerbacks because of ruptured Achilles. Pineda said it takes time to develop chemistry between Alex De John, who replaced Miles Robinson at centerback, Alan Franco and Bobby Shuttleworth, who replaced Brad Guzan in goal. George Campbell also is in the mix at centerback for Saturday, Pineda said.

The defense has given up five goals in two games since Robinson’s injury May 7.

“There’s going to be a learning process,” Pineda said.

The offense is sparking in part because of a group of healthy players who are able to start each game. Ronaldo Cisneros, Marcelino Moreno, Thiago Almada and Luiz Araujo have combined to score seven of the team’s past eight goals.

Pineda said Moreno’s understanding of when to dribble and when to pass is helping the offense find its form. Pineda said Moreno is learning when he has the ball near midfield, pass it and move higher up the field. When he’s in the opponent’s third, it’s OK to attack.

Moreno has one goal and one assist in the past three league games, and two assists in the U.S. Open Cup loss at Nashville.

“He’s the type of No. 10 or attacking player that likes the weight on his shoulders,” Pineda said. “He wants to show that he is the guy that takes the team and carries the weight.”

A reason the attacking players are feeling free to get up the field is because there has been consistency in the midfield, with Matheus Rossetto and Franco Ibarra forming a good partnership. They have started the past three league games and likely will do so Saturday.

“I think we found some balance,” Pineda said.

Pineda said Ibarra has done a solid job controlling the other team’s best attacking midfielders, a group that includes Montreal’s Djordje Mihailovic, Chicago’s Xherdan Shaqiri and New England’s Carles Gil.

Rossetto is the more cerebral player, looking for pockets of space to take advantage of and then connecting defense to offense.

“I think that partnership is getting better,” he said.

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX

May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs. Miami, 3 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

Aug. 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1

Aug. 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

Aug. 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE