JuanJo Purata helping Atlanta United’s offense and defense

JuanJo Purata’s impact on Atlanta United since his inclusion in the starting lineup can be seen in its defense and, somewhat surprisingly, its offense.

Manager Gonzalo Pineda’s decision to switch from two to three centerbacks after the 3-0 loss to Austin three games ago meant the inclusion of Purata into the lineup. In the past two games, the team has allowed only two goals after giving up nine goals in the previous four games.

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And Purata, who is on loan from Tigres in LIGA MX, also has contributed to the offense, with a tying goal in last week’s 1-1 draw with Orlando. The team will play at L.A. Galaxy on Sunday.

“I said it when I signed here, but I liked the style of play of the team, and I think the style suits me,” said Purata, who made 34 appearances for Tigres.

Purata also said he’s learning his teammates, such as how Thiago Almada likes to place free kicks. So he had an idea where to go to head in a beautifully hit strike in the 71st minute Sunday. Teammate Dom Dwyer said it likely won’t be the last goal that Purata scores for the Five Stripes.

Purata’s impact is felt in more than just stats. He can be seen frequently communicating to his teammates, either face-to-face or with hand gestures, as he seeks to keep them aware of situations and formational discipline. Pineda said he is the same type of leader during training drills. In the previous four games before Purata began starting, the team earned only one point. It has taken four from its past two to stay in the playoff race for one of the top seven spots in the Eastern Conference.

“Even though we’ve given up those goals in the recent games, I think they’ve they’ve been small mistakes, things that we can correct,” he said. “So what I’m doing is trying to communicate, using all my experience that I’ve gained throughout my career, to try and help players to be fully fully focused, always attentive, and also just to be well-positioned.”

Centerback George Campbell said the back line always has communicated, but having an extra player and voice is helping him and Alan Franco.

“He’s been a great addition, and hopefully we can keep it up this week,” Campbell said.

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

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, 5:30 p.m., FS1

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

August 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

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