Pineda’s goal is to lead Atlanta United to playoffs

Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) celebrates with teammates after scoring the first goal of the match against D.C. United Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at Audi Field in Washington. (Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)
Caption
Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) celebrates with teammates after scoring the first goal of the match against D.C. United Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, at Audi Field in Washington. (Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United)

Credit: Jacob Gonzalez/Atlanta United

Riding a four-game win streak, Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda said his goal to help the team qualify for the MLS playoffs.

Atlanta United is in eighth place, one spot below the playoff line, with 13 games remaining. The team has 27 points. It is tied with D.C. United in points, but D.C. United has the edge in tie-breakers, so it is in seventh place. Atlanta United will host Nashville on Saturday. Nashville is in fourth place with 32 points.

Seven of the team’s remaining games are against teams below the playoff line.

Pineda knows how to lead a team to the playoffs and how to win once qualified. As an assistant at Seattle, the Sounders appeared in three MLS Cups, winning one.

Pineda didn’t set a specific goal of how high in the standings he hopes the team will finish because he said he doesn’t want to limit the player. He said Monday that he’d like for the team to finish high enough to host at least one playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“That’s massively important for us,” he said. “And obviously, once we are there, obviously competing for the championship, I think the team has enough talent to push for that. And I feel (playing at home) should be enough advantage to fight for that and compete for that at least.”

Atlanta United qualified for the playoffs in its first season, 2017, but was eliminated by Columbus in the first round. It won the MLS Cup in 2018. It advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in 2019 where it was beaten by Toronto. It failed to qualify for the playoffs last year.

The playoffs are scheduled to begin Nov. 19. The second, third and fourth seeds will host first-round playoff games.

The MLS Cup is scheduled to be played Dec. 11.

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