Rossetto says he can be a more productive midfielder for Atlanta United

Atlanta United midfielders Ezequiel Barco (left) and Matheus Rossetto work against FC Cincinnati during a 2-1 victory in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta.   Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

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Atlanta United midfielders Ezequiel Barco (left) and Matheus Rossetto work against FC Cincinnati during a 2-1 victory in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Matheus Rossetto said Tuesday that he believes he can be a central midfielder who can surprise opponents with late runs into the penalty box and sometimes score for Atlanta United.

Rossetto, described by teammates as smart, calm and technical, is almost like having a new player because he has missed most of the season because of travel and paperwork restrictions as he worked on his green card and to recover from a hamstring injury.

He made his first start this season Saturday against Columbus. He played 69 minutes and he took one shot in the 1-0 loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“It has been a long time since played a game for the club,” he said. “I was just trying to get my rhythm back. It felt good to play at home. It felt good to play in front of the fans again.”

Interim manager Rob Valentino said after Saturday’s game that he selected Rossetto for the starting 11 because he thought he could bring some aggressiveness and speed.

In a way, Rossetto exemplifies Valentino’s approach.

“I wanted to show the intent of like we’re going to go on and attack this team,” Valentino said. “I didn’t know how long he would last, but I told him to give me all you got for as long as you can, thinking that, ideally, we would have a goal or so to get in the first half.”

Valentino said he thought Rossetto could have attacked Columbus a bit more. Rossetto agreed, saying that attacking took more out of him than he expected Saturday. But Rossetto said he finally feels strong and can play the way he used to.

“Now I’ll keep working to attack more,” he said.

Getting Rossetto to attack has been the biggest question mark about him. In 15 appearances last season he took only three shots and had neither a goal nor an assist. His rate of expected goals per 90 was 0.02, and his expected assists per 90 was 0.04, which are low for a playmaking midfielder.

But Rossetto was getting used to a new country and a new club, and played for two different managers that season. Valentino is the fourth manager that Rossetto has played for since he signed with Atlanta United ahead of the 2020 season. What may be confusing for some players turns out to be close to the norm in Rossetto’s home country of Brazil. He said clubs frequently go through coaches, so the changes he has experienced with Atlanta United haven’t really bothered him.

“I feel like I’m more used to how more intense the game is in MLS than ever before,” he said. “Like most of the South Americans, I think we’re all getting close to where we need to be.”

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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 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ESPN

Aug. 4 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 7 at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 15 vs. LAFC, 4 p.m. ESPN

Aug. 18 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at D.C. United, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

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