Despite numerous problems, Atlanta United still focused

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Atlanta United has a chance to wrap up a week to forget on a positive note if it can defeat Toronto on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The team lost to Portland 2-1 on Sunday in one of its meeker performances this MLS season. That was followed by the news that centerback Miles Robinson was arrested for an alleged misdemeanor. That was followed by the club suspending Josef Martinez for a week for what it described as “conduct detrimental to the team,” but is now known to have been a shouting argument between himself and manager Gonzalo Pineda following the loss to the Timbers.

This on top of all the injuries, as well as club President Darren Eales leaving mid-season to join Newcastle.

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Still ... the team hasn’t lost hope that despite being six points behind seventh-place Cincinnati for the final playoff spot with five games remaining it can work some magic.

“I think the focus has been pretty good,” fullback Andrew Gutman said. “The biggest thing for us is we’re still in it. I think we’re five points out of playoffs, so we have five games left. So, for us, we’re just focusing on Toronto and getting three points and kind of hoping just to get on a run and go into playoffs on a real high.”

The players have spoken to each other, as well as individually to Pineda, about the goings-on of the past few days. Midfielder Thiago Almada said he doesn’t feel as if the season has yet to slip away.

“I think we still have a chance,” he said. “We’ve got four or five games left. We’ve got to try to win every game and try to make the playoffs.”

Gutman said the team still believes it will score without Martinez, who leads Atlanta United with eight goals. He said the team has so many attacking options that someone will step up.

Defeating Toronto won’t be easy. It is 4-2-3 in its past nine games. Its offense, because of the additions of Italian nationals Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, has scored 21 goals during that span. Toronto also is one of six teams below the playoff line who have a chance at making the postseason.

“Their attack is amazing,” Gutman said. “They brought in a couple players, and it’s completely changed the dynamic of their attack. So, I want to make sure that they don’t get any chances, don’t get any space going forward. But at the same time, if I can get forward and make them defend, that kind of tires them out as well. So it’s kind of like a cat-and-mouse game.”

Pineda said he is proud of his team’s resilience and that it has a chance to keep showing it Saturday despite everything that has happened.

“We have faced enormous challenges, enormous challenges throughout the season,” he said. “And we’re still here with possibilities to make playoffs, and we will try to fight until the end for that.

“I think if there’s something I can tell you, I’m very proud of the fight at the end of the games, even though when things are not going well, they always fight, they always come back.”

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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 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0

August 6 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 1

August 13 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

August 17 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

August 21 Atlanta United 2, Columbus 2

August 28 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

August 31 Philadelphia 4, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 4 Portland 2, Atlanta United 1

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, 1:30 p.m., UniMas