Atlanta United’s Pineda excited about new centerback Luis Abram

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said on Monday that he is “very, very happy” with the acquisition of centerback Luis Abram.

The Peruvian was purchased from Granada and given a three-year contract. Atlanta United announced the signing on Friday.

“I think he’s going to provide a lot of stability in the backline,” Pineda said. “Very good with the ball and very steady, intelligent centerback.”

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Abram hasn’t joined the club during its preseason camp in Mexico. He is at the team’s training center in Marietta working with one of the team’s fitness coaches.

Atlanta United will play Cruz Azul in a closed friendly on Wednesday and then return on Thursday. Abram will join a group that includes Miles Robinson, JuanJo Purata and Noah Cobb.

The team has yet to confirm the acquisition of striker Giorgos Giakoumakis, a 28-year-old native of Greece. His career includes stops at several clubs, most recently at Celtic in Scotland. He has scored 83 goals in 243 appearances with an average of one goal every 161 minutes.

Pineda said the team is working on a third signing but declined to provide any details, including the position.

“We’ve been talking about different options,” he said.

Not worried about Guzan

Pineda said he has no concerns about goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who allowed a goal in Saturday’s friendly at Atlante after allowing three in the first half of the preseason opener at Chattanooga.

Guzan, 38, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon last season.

Saturday’s goal came on what Pineda described as a hard swerving shot that bounced right in front of Guzan. The deflection was put in by an Atlante player.

“Any goalkeeper can make mistakes as you know, but I’m very happy and very confident with Brad,” Pineda said.

Chol at striker

One of the surprises in Saturday’s lineup was Pineda’s decision to start Machop Chol at striker instead of Jackson Conway. Chol normally plays on the left wing.

Pineda said he wanted to give Chol a shot at striker because he wanted to see what he could do. He said he’s a good finisher in training in small-sided matches and is willing to make runs behind defenders.

“I have three or four players that can play multiple positions and Chop is one of those,” Pineda said.

Pineda said he thought Chol played decently for someone who isn’t used to some of the movements and runs. Pineda liked his work-rate and the fact that he could get away from the centerbacks and get behind them.

Chol may start again at striker against Cruz Azul.

Wiley at wing

One more smaller surprise was Pineda’s decision to play Caleb Wiley at left wing.

Derrick Etienne, signed as a free agent, is the presumed starter at left wing once he can begin fully training with the team. Pineda said Wiley will likely back up Etienne.

“Left wing I think is one that suits him pretty well because of his runs behind and he was doing very well,” Pineda said of Wiley. “I love also the way he presses at high intensity and he forces the opponent to make mistakes because of his speed and his aggression.”

Defensive expectations

After being disappointed by his team’s defensive play in the first half against Chattanooga, Pineda said the backline played well at Atlante. The group allowed one goal.

Atlante played a very unusual style, according to Pineda. First, the team marked man-to-man when it didn’t have the ball. When it did have the ball, Atlante flooded the wings, leaving almost no one in the middle of the pitch. Pineda said it almost looked like a circular formation.

As a result, Atlanta United’s defenders were forced to deal with a lot of long crosses and one-on-ones on the flanks.

“I felt that the backline dealt very well with that,” Pineda said.

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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 7:30 p.m.

March 4 vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m.

March 11 at Charlotte FC, noon, Fox

March 18 vs. Portland Timbers, 7:30 p.m.

March 25 at Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

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