Gonzalo Pineda likely won’t use rotation much in Atlanta United stretch run

Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda talks to the team during training at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground in Marietta, GA, on Tuesday August 24, 2021. Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)
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Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda talks to the team during training at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground in Marietta, GA, on Tuesday August 24, 2021. Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

Credit: Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda likely won’t do a lot of rotation within the squad as the team competes to earn a playoff berth in the season’s final 13 regular-season games.

Pineda’s team has 27 points and is tied with D.C. United, which has the seventh and final playoff spot because of tie-breakers. Atlanta United will host Nashville (32 points) on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I would like to kind of contain the same lineup and this information so the players can have some consistency, get more connections and get used to each other,” he said Tuesday.

Pineda isn’t against squad rotation. He said he is fine with rotating players early in the season. He said it’s something he learned from Brian Schmetzer at Seattle.

Pineda wouldn’t be the first Atlanta United manager to rely on a core group of players. Gerardo Martino drew mostly from a pool of about 14 players in his first two years. The team won the MLS Cup in 2018. Because of injuries to players earlier this season, there are several players who have MLS experience should Pineda need them this season. That group includes goalkeeper Alec Kann, striker Jackson Conway, midfielder Tyler Wolff, Machop Chol and Jurgen Damm and centerback Alex de John.

Atlanta United has two healthy central midfielders, Amar Sejdic and Matheus Rossetto. Marcelino Moreno, normally an attacking midfielder or winger, was used in that role in the team’s most recent game, a 2-1 win at D.C. United. Moreno scored the game-winning goal and had an assist on the first goal. Sejdic started as the other midfielder and played well, according to interim manager Rob Valentino. Rossetto subbed on for Sejdic and helped close the game. Emerson Hyndman is out for the season. Santiago Sosa didn’t participate in Tuesday’s training session after not playing against D.C. United. Franco Ibarra has missed the past few games. Mo Adams has missed most of the season.

While the schedule isn’t easy, the team has only one more stretch where it will play three games in eight days: Sept. 25 through Oct. 2 when it plays at Philadelphia, vs. Miami and at Montreal. It has two stretches where it will play three in nine days.

To manage the rest and recovery, and because Pineda may not do a lot of rotating within the squad, he said he may look at ways to handle load management within training sessions. As an example, he mentioned centerback Miles Robinson and fullback George Bello.

Robinson has started 14 of 15 games. Bello has also started 15 of 16 games. The games they missed were because they were playing for the U.S. in the Gold Cup. The two currently are in Los Angeles for MLS All-Star festivities. They may be called up by the U.S. for its three coming World Cup qualifying matches. That’s a lot of soccer within a year.

“I have to be mindful with those two in terms of managing the load, whether it is rotating them, or whether it is just managing the training loads with them,” Pineda said Monday in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m very happy with the staff we have here in terms of sport science and data analysis. So I’m hopeful that we can find the right solution, whether it is a squad rotation, or it is just managing the load in the sessions.”

When Robinson hasn’t played, the team has used either De John or George Campbell. Pineda said Tuesday that he prefers to keep a three-man backline. When Bello hasn’t played, the team has used either Brooks Lennon on the left, or Mikey Ambrose.

In addition to the data from the team’s sports scientists and trainers, Pineda said he will rely on what he sees and his conversations with the players to gauge their fitness.

“So I would say collectively, all that information, will will make us take a better decision in order to manage loads and manage the rotations in the squad,” he said.

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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

May 9 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 1,

May 15 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

May 23 Atlanta United 1, Seattle 1

May 29 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

June 20 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

June 23 NYCFC 1, Atlanta United 0

June 27 Atlanta United 0, New York Red Bulls 0

July 3 Chicago 3, Atlanta United 0

July 8 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

July 17 New England 1, Atlanta United 0

July 21 Atlanta United 1, Cincinnati 1

July 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Orlando 3, Atlanta United 2

Aug. 4 Atlanta United 2, Montreal 2

Aug. 7 Atlanta United 3, Columbus 2

Aug. 15 Atlanta United 1, LAFC 0

Aug. 18 Atlanta United 1, Toronto

Aug. 21 Atlanta United 2, D.C. United 1

Aug. 28 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 10 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 18 vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 25 at Philadelphia,3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 29 vs. Inter Miami, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 2 at Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE