‘I think it’s a matter of time:’ Atlanta United expects offense will click

Atlanta United defender Caleb Wiley #26 scores a goal during the match against Philadelphia Union at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday April 14, 2024. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Atlanta United)

Credit: Brandon Magnus/Atlanta United

Credit: Brandon Magnus/Atlanta United

Atlanta United defender Caleb Wiley #26 scores a goal during the match against Philadelphia Union at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday April 14, 2024. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Atlanta United)

Fresh off a winless April, Atlanta United has turned its focus to what could be a memorable May that will include six league matches, starting Saturday against Minnesota, and at least one U.S. Open Cup match.

As for the optimistic, it’s lots of chances for the team to turn the oodles of expected assists and expected goals it has totaled into real assists, real goals and real points.

As for the pessimistic, it will be having to hear again about potential when they want to see something more tangible.

Manager Gonzalo Pineda, as he typically does, chose optimism Thursday, mixed with a prediction of success.

“We just need to finish a couple of those, and the story is completely different, then the confidence will come,” he said. “And once we start to win a couple games in a row with some goals, I am sure that we have enough quality to continue with that theme of attacking, a team and (being) a team that can unbalance any opponent. So I think it’s a matter of time, and I hope these can start Saturday.”

Curiously, it’s the offense, not the defense, that isn’t on track this season. Though Atlanta United has had to use five different centerbacks because of injuries, it posted its third shutout in its 0-0 draw Saturday at Chicago. The Five Stripes are tied for the MLS lead in goals allowed (9), an average of 1.0 per match. This, a season after they gave up 53 goals, an average of 1.6 per match, more than any other team that made the playoffs.

Atlanta United’s attack, conversely, has scored only 13 goals for an average of 1.44 per match. This, a season after it scored 66, an average of 1.9 per match. The team team ranks ninth in the league in expected goals (14.4) and seventh in chances created (106; 11.8 per match).

“We’re creating so many chances,” Caleb Wiley said. “I know it’s frustrating. I know it’s frustrating for us, the fans, everybody watching. But the goals will come.”

Atlanta United may be helped by the return of winger Xande Silva, who has missed the past three of the past four matches because of an adductor injury.

Wiley said he thinks that Atlanta United will be able to exploit the space behind Minnesota’s backline in Saturday’s match. The Loons have started to play with three centerbacks and two wingbacks, which can leave pockets between the centerbacks and sidelines that Atlanta United’s wingers or fullbacks may be able to get into and hit crosses.

“We have watched all the games, and we’re prepared tactically for whatever lineup and structure they present,” Pineda said.

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 Atlanta United 2, Orlando 0

March 23 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 0

March 31 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 0

April 6 Atlanta United 1, NYCFC 1

April 14 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

April 20 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

April 27 Atlanta United 1, Chicago 1

May 4 vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.

May 11 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

May 15 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

May 18 at Nashville, 1:30 p.m.

May 25 vs. LAFC, 7:30 p.m.

May 29 at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

June 2 vs Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FOX

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.