Gonzalo Pineda happy with Atlanta United after first friendly

Atlanta United forward Tyler Wolff #28 kicks the ball during the first half of the match against Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois on Saturday July 3, 2021. (Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

Credit: Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United

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Atlanta United forward Tyler Wolff #28 kicks the ball during the first half of the match against Chicago Fire FC at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois on Saturday July 3, 2021. (Photo by Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

Credit: Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said Tuesday he was happy with his team’s performance in its 2-0 victory over Georgia Storm in a friendly at the team’s training ground in Marietta. The goals were scored by Tyler Wolff and Jackson Conway.

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Pineda said the team has worked on three things during its first week of training, and he saw each executed against the semi-professional team Tuesday. Those areas were: pressing aggressively high when the opponent had the ball, playing with a back four on defense instead of the back five used most of last season and, when his team had the ball, successfully working the ball to certain areas.

“We saw a little bit of that in both games,” Pineda said. “So we are pleased.”

The game consisted of two 30-minute periods. Pineda said the team also is using scrimmages to improve its fitness. Sunday’s friendly against the Georgia Revolution in Athens likely will consist of 45-minute halves, each played by a different roster of players. Subsequent friendlies will increase in increments of 15 minutes for each roster until the exhibitions reach 90 as the players work toward playing full games.

Not available Tuesday were Santiago Sosa and Emerson Hyndman, who are recovering from surgeries; Machop Chol, Miles Robinson, Brooks Lennon, Josef Martinez and Ronald Hernandez, who are with their national teams; Jake Mulraney, who is working on his green card; Marcelino Moreno, who is recovering after being stepped on in Monday’s training season; George Bello, who was given a few days off by Pineda after being with the U.S. national team; and Ezequiel Barco and Erik Lopez.

Tuesday’s first team consisted of goalkeeper Brad Guzan, centerbacks Alan Franco and George Campbell, fullbacks Andrew Gutman and Aiden McFadden, midfielders Ozzie Alonso and Matheus Rossetto, attacking midfielder Wolff, left winger Erik Centeno, the team’s first-round draft pick, right winger Luiz Araujo and Conway at striker.

Wolff gave Atlanta United a 1-0 lead in the third minute with a header. The play started with Araujo dribbling toward the middle of the field near the top of the penalty box. He passed to Centeno, whose shot was deflected by the goalkeeper. Wolff was the first to react, putting the ball into the goal from just a few yards away.

“I really liked the numbers we had today,” Pineda said. “Inside the box is something that we didn’t have a lot last year is one of our points to prove this year. And we were pleased that Tyler, Jackson and the opposite winger, the opposite fullback, were inside the box when we were crossing the ball and that presence inside is what gave us the chances to score many goals.”

Atlanta United increased its lead to 2-0 in the 15th minute and Wolff and Araujo were again involved. Following a Storm corner kick. Wolff hit a long pass from the corner up the right sideline to break pressure. Araujo reached the ball, turned and ran at the Storm’s centerbacks. Conway timed a run very well to avoid being offside. Araujo played the ball into space, leaving Conway with only the goalkeeper to beat. He hit a right-footed shot to the goalkeeper’s left.

“These are the games where you can act like a chicken with the head cut off, just running around, that takes you to match fitness,” Conway said. “And that’s really important. Creating that chemistry with your teammates.”

Also impressive from the first team were Alonso, who signed as a free agent, and Gutman, who spent last season on loan with the New York Red Bulls.

Pineda said he liked how aggressive Alonso was with his pressure and how he was pushing everyone forward. Pineda said Gutman has a tough mentality is very aggressive on and off the ball, which may be a result of playing in the Red Bulls system last season. Pineda said they are teaching Gutman what they want from the fullbacks, which is to play box to box, what areas to attack and the defensive shifts.

“He listens,” Pineda said. “He’s coachable, and he’s smart. He has all the tools to be able to play it.

The second team was composed of goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, centerbacks Alex De John and Noah Cobb, from the team’s academy, fullbacks Bryce Washington and Mikey Ambrose, midfielders Franco Ibarra, Amar Sejdic, Robbie Mertz and Darwin Matheus, from Atlanta United 2, and Daniel Bloyou, a draft pick, and striker Tolo Showunmi, another draft pick.

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 vs. Sporting KC, 3 p.m., FS1

March 5 at Colorado, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

March 13 vs. Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FS1

March 19 vs. Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 2 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 9 at Charlotte, 3 p.m., ESPN

April 16 vs. Cincinnati, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

April 24 at Miami, 1 p.m., ESPN

April 30 at Montreal, 4 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 7 vs. Chicago, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

May 15 vs. New England, 2 p.m., ESPN

May 21 at Nashville, 7:30 p.m. FOX

May 28 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs Miami, 4 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

August 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

August 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1

August 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

August 31 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

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 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

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