Missing pieces: Atlanta United focused on what it has against D.C. United

Atlanta United forward Xande Silva scores a goal during the match against the Charlotte FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday June 2, 2024. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Atlanta United)

Credit: Madelaina Polk/Atlanta United

Credit: Madelaina Polk/Atlanta United

Atlanta United forward Xande Silva scores a goal during the match against the Charlotte FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday June 2, 2024. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Atlanta United)

Atlanta United is undergoing a serious test of its depth.

Three important players, Saba Lobjanidze, Bartosz Slisz and Luis Abram, are all with their national teams for the UEFA Euros and upcoming Copa America. Two others are returning from injury, one was injured in the last match, and leading scorer Giorgos Giakoumakis (five goals) has been transferred to Cruz Azul.

Interim manager Rob Valentino recognized that the team is missing players, but said his focus is on the ones that are available.

“I don’t think about what’s missing, I just think about what we have here and how we can maximize what we have,” Valentino said, “I don’t have any excuses of what we have or what we don’t have.”

That idea was echoed by winger Xande Silva who said that he believes the squad must play with what it has now. He believes the team has good players despite the various absences.

“We need to focus on what we have,” Silva said, “That’s the rules.”

One player the Five Stripes will not have is Edwin Mosquera, who was forced to leave early during Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Houston with a knee injury. He was not present during the team’s training session on Monday, and Valentino said he needed to be evaluated further. Valentino also said that Tyler Wolff and Stian Gregersen, who are both returning from injuries, did well in training and could play a role in this week’s matches at D.C. United and St. Louis City. He sounded more optimistic about Wolff’s chances.

“Hopefully we can get them involved in some way in one of these two games at least,” Valentino said.

The focus of Monday’s session was preparing to visit D.C. United on Wednesday, a team that took three points from Mercedes-Benz Stadium earlier this season thanks to a Christian Benteke hat trick. The Belgian striker has the sixth-highest aerial duel success rate in the league (76.3%) and is second in the Golden Boot Race (13 goals) behind Real Salt Lake’s Cristian Arango. The Black and Red have scored nine set piece goals this season whereas Atlanta has conceded nine. Valentino admitted that Benteke is a talented player, but he believes the team should not solely focus on him.

“We’ll look at the game as a whole and how we can be really specific in this game - and be present in that moment - and see what we can come up with to get the best result we can,” Valentino said.

Silva reflected on the team’s previous defeat to D.C. United as a learning experience. He said the team needed to take time to analyze that game and take the lessons learned from it to work toward turning around the team’s poor form.

“We lost that game, so we have a lot of things to improve,” Silva said, “When you’re down, to get up is difficult and we’re trying to get back where we deserve to be or where we want to be.”

It will not be easy for Atlanta United to get results without some of its key players, and it will be even more challenging to win on the road considering its 1-3-3 away record this season. However, Valentino is calling for everyone at the club, including the staff and players, to step up and do better to overcome the odds.

“It’s a shared responsibility,” Valentino said, “We all have to do just a little bit better and do our jobs, but do them a little bit better.”