Two important players resume training with Atlanta United

Atlanta United midfielder Marcelino Moreno (10) dribbles the ball against NYCFC Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)
Atlanta United midfielder Marcelino Moreno (10) dribbles the ball against NYCFC Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Two important players resumed training with Atlanta United as it prepares for Sunday’s MLS playoff game at NYCFC.

Marcelino Moreno, a versatile midfielder, and Santiago Sosa, a defensive midfielder, trained with the team Wednesday.

“They look great,” fullback Brooks Lennon said. “It’s great to have them back in the training sessions with us preparing for Sunday.”

Moreno has nine goals and five assists in 32 appearances this season. He didn’t play in the season finale at Cincinnati on Nov. 7 because of a pain-tolerance issue related to a foot injury.

Sosa missed the past four games after sustaining an injury in a 1-1 draw against NYCFC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He has 25 appearances for the club this season.

“I think for both of them, there’s obviously a tough time being out,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “But to have them back on the field is certainly a bonus for us.”

Each are important because of their ability to play different positions, which gives manager Gonzalo Pineda flexibility with his formations and tactics.

Moreno is most effective as an attacking midfielder, playing off striker Josef Martinez and wingers Ezequiel Barco and Luiz Araujo. However, he also has been used on the wing this season, or as a central midfielder, playing off the defensive midfielder in a way in which he serves as a bridge between defense and offense.

No matter where Moreno played, he typically was effective. He finished 11th in MLS this season in key passes (63). He was second behind Lennon among starters in expected assists per 90 minutes (0.23).

Sosa’s return allows Pineda the freedom to play with his preferred three centerbacks, or to go with two centerbacks because Sosa can drop in between the pair when the team doesn’t have the ball, or step forward and try to create or join the attack when the team has the ball.

Having that formational flexibility could be a key Sunday on the small field at Yankee Stadium, where offense can turn into defense with one turnover followed by one pass.

Sosa tied for the team lead in successful tackles (40) and led the team in tackles in the defensive third (33).

Or by turning defense into offense following a turnover and pass.

Sosa was second on the team in touches (1,977), passes under pressure (253), total passes attempted (1,706) and completed (1,515) and second in long passes attempted (352) and completed (297).

“With Santi, it’s probably easier to play a 4-2-3-1 because he’s one that can also drop as a centerback,” Pineda said last week. “So again, those things are in my mind, and I will try to take the best decision against a very good team like New York City.”

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Atlanta United’s playoff schedule

Nov. 21 at NYCFC, 3 p.m., ABC

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 0

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

Aug. 28 Nashville 2, Atlanta United 0

Sept. 10 Atlanta United 3, Orlando 0

Sept. 15 Atlanta United 4, Cincinnati 0

Sept. 18 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

Sept. 25 Philadelphia 1, Atlanta United 0

Sept. 29 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 0

Oct. 2 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

Oct. 16 Atlanta United 2, Toronto 0

Oct. 20 Atlanta United 1, NYCFC 1

Oct. 27 Atlanta United 2, Miami 1

Oct. 30 Atlanta United 1, Toronto1

Nov. 3 Atlanta United 0, New York Red Bulls 0

Nov. 7 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 1

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