Gonzalo Pineda believes his Atlanta United players are more than good enough and that the tactics are good, otherwise the team wouldn’t have gone unbeaten and scored 11 goals in its first four games.
What is missing, though, particularly during its four-game losing streak in which it has scored only four goals, is intensity.
If the team doesn’t score on its first attempt, it seems to lose confidence. If the other team scores first, such as Charlotte in Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there isn’t enough fight to stage a rally.
“I have no questions about my team, no doubts, it is more about them understanding that we all need to be better, and I have the tools to make that happen,” he said. “I have a very good team, and we were playing very good on the ball before the first goal (from Charlotte), but that lack of intensity in key moments of the game put us in tough positions.”
There isn’t a lot of time to find whatever switch needs to be flipped.
Despite not taking any points from its past three games, it still is in fourth place in the East. It is six points from first and six points from 15th. Such is the topsy-turvy, sometimes stasis, world of MLS.
Atlanta United will have another chance to take points when it hosts Colorado on Wednesday, which means it will get one day to train. After Colorado, it will play at Chicago on Saturday.
“Training sessions,” Pineda said. “Working hard. Now, we have to recover and (the team) has to see what we need to do better. We have already talked, and I expect better next time.”
Pineda said the momentum stopped during the international break when the team was beaten 6-1 by Columbus. Atlanta United was missing seven players because they were with their various national teams. But the team hasn’t played the same since that walloping in Ohio.
“Again, we have it, because otherwise we wouldn’t have shown it at the beginning of the season, and again, we are not that far, because the margins in MLS are very, very small, so it is not like it is very easy to win in this league, as you see constantly, with many, many results that seem to be not likely, and yet it happens,” he said. “We just need to just find that extra boost of intensity to get the results that we need.”
Striker Giorgos Giakoumakis said it’s obvious the team lacks intensity right now. He also said it’s an opportunity for the players to find that missing grit and improve its form.
“I don’t think we have a lack of intensity in training, but it’s different when you play a game versus just train with your teammates,” he said. “I think we can work even harder in training. We can’t accept this whole situation. If you don’t accept this situation and get upset about it, we have to start thinking that we need to change a few things.”
Giakoumakis said increased toughness also requires the willingness to talk so that the players can better understand their teammates and what they are thinking while on the field, what they expect.
“Every player is different and every player has different characteristics so we have to think ‘I’m not this guy, I’m not the No. 10, I’m not the striker, as a striker what can I do? I can score, I can run as much as possible,’ “ he said. “Everyone can put this characteristic into his position, the team first of all, and then ourselves, so we have to kill ourselves on the field. And this is something that we’re missing right now, and it’s also because we have a lack of confidence. This is something that affects you a lot when you try to impose your intensity into the game and you cannot because you don’t feel that good, that happy, that important, that strong and everything is a circle and it goes on.”
There are other things for Pineda to try to solve:
- Winger Luiz Araujo put one shot on goal. It’s the only shot he’s put on goal in the past seven games. It was in a one-on-one situation, and he hit right at the goalkeeper.
- Miguel Berry, who started at striker, didn’t attempt a shot. Atlanta United’s backup strikers, Berry and Machop Chol have taken one shot in the past four starts.
- Atlanta United’s defense has given up 21 goals, second-most in the league.
- Its offense has put only 11 shots on goal in the past four matches.
And other notes:
- Andrew Gutman posted on Twitter an apology for his actions that led to a red card in the second half. It resulted in a Charlotte penalty and Gutman’s sending off.
- Justin Meram, who played for Atlanta United in 2019, scored two goals Saturday, but didn’t celebrate either. He posted on Twitter that he didn’t celebrate out of respect for Atlanta United and its supporters.
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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule
Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1
March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1
March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0
March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1
March 25 Columbus 6, Atlanta United 1
April 1 Atlanta United 1, New York Red Bulls 0
April 8 Atlanta United 1, New York City FC 1
April 15 Atlanta United 2, Toronto FC 2
April 23 Atlanta United 2, Chicago 1
April 29 Nashville SC 3, Atlanta United 1
May 6 Inter Miami CF 2, Atlanta United 1
May 13 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 1
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 p.m., FS1
June 7 or Sept. 13 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