Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada not in lineups for behind-the-scenes reasons

Atlanta United's Thiago Almada has come off the bench the last few games. (Miguel Martinez /Miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com)

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Atlanta United's Thiago Almada has come off the bench the last few games. (Miguel Martinez /Miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com)

Thiago Almada hasn’t started Atlanta United’s past two games. Manager Gonzalo Pineda said Thursday that’s because there are things “you don’t see that I see.”

“We have more information that makes us make decisions, and maybe at times is hard to understand from the outside,” Pineda said ahead of Saturday’s game at Chicago. “But we all understand that Almada is a fantastic player. When he starts, he has an impact. When he comes from the bench, he’s going to impact the game. And this also in which position he can impact better. So that’s my job, trying to put him in the right place with the right players around to support him to succeed.”

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Atlanta United drew the first game that Almada didn’t start, 1-1 with Orlando. Almada came on as a second-half sub in the 60th minute and assisted on JuanJo Purata’s tying goal. Atlanta United lost the second game 2-0 to the Galaxy. With Almada on the bench in the first half, the team created two scoring chances. When he came in to start the second half, the team finished with eight chances created. Though he didn’t create a chance, Almada led the team in passes completed in the opponent’s defensive third (19) and the offense looked more vibrant.

After the loss to L.A., Pineda said Almada didn’t start because he has only three slots available, and Marcelino Moreno, Luiz Araujo and Ronaldo Cisneros were selected.

Almada had started the previous three games. The team took four points from those games.

On Thursday, Pineda went deeper into the decision. He said not starting Almada, who leads the team with six assists, is about competition within the team, how players are training and who is better. Almada has made 16 appearances, including 12 starts. He leads the team with 42 chances created.

“Certain weeks, we all have ups and downs, and at times I see a player better than another, and sometimes you are not able to see that,“ Pineda said. “That’s a problem. So it’s about everything. It’s about we as a coaching staff, we come together and we say, ‘OK, what is the best lineup for us to win?’ We don’t come there and say, ‘OK, what is the best lineup to lose.’ ...

“So if we come up with the best ideas, trying to get the best players, the best 11, based on the scouting report, based on us, what is the best shape that we can use? Based on how the game plan dictates the lineup. So a lot of things go into the analysis for choosing lineups. And that’s always the case. I mean, when we win, no one asked why we didn’t put the player right. Now that we lose, everybody’s asking why or why not this player, so it’s normal. It’s normal (that) results dictate that.”

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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 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

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, 5:30 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