Practice day: Atlanta United gear up for full-strength Galaxy squad; 2 shakes a hard loss
Nothing about being outdoors on a humid, rainy day in Atlanta sounds appealing, especially if it involves some form of physical activity. Add eclairs to the mix and you might as well stay inside and try again tomorrow. Atlanta United’s first team did just that on Thursday morning, opting to focus on indoor workouts and tactical talks as wave after wave of rain and thunderstorms ripped through the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. Only Gonzalo Pineda, George Campbell and Juanjo Purata emerged after the storms to chat with the media about the state of the team and LA Galaxy’s preparedness.
The 2? Not so lucky.
The young team emerged after the lightning struck and embarked on drills and 4-goal matches. They’re looking to put last weekend’s 5-0 loss to San Antonio behind them as they prepare for this weekend’s game against another USL juggernaut, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who won’t have not lost a game since April 30. Despite the previous result and the gloomy weather, the 2 had a little pep during their training session as the big news of the day came early. Ajani Fortune has signed a homegrown contract beginning in 2023, scoring 15 homegrown players in total in Atlanta United’s short history. Fortune will be looking to fill a Robbie Mertz-sized hole in midfield, the latter having recently been traded to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Meanwhile, Pineda, Purata and Campbell all took time to talk after the first team had completed their indoor training sessions. It was the first time Purata was able to offer his thoughts on his tie header in the game against Orlando City. He was particularly proud of his aerial ability, both offensively and defensively, when asked about recent comments from Dom Dwyer stating that the goal would certainly not be the last fans saw from the Mexican newcomer. He also thanked the whole team for the work that led to the goal: “I always said that the goals were due to the team, that game it was just my turn to score a goal. “
Purata also touched on the backline’s defensive ability, mentioning that they had mistakes that can be dealt with and corrected. Since Juanjo’s arrival, the first impression has been that his presence and the move to a three center back formation has benefited Atlanta United as a whole. This was reaffirmed by George Campbell, who also praised Purata’s communication and strength, adding that the centre-back’s body is now allowed to be more aggressive. The young hometown defender also said the Five Stripes need to “show more consistently” in every game that the team “is back”, echoing statements made by Pineda after home games last week.
Pineda finally took the floor, cup of coffee in hand (debate ensues, but I swear it’s café con leche) to end the day. Much of the conversation revolved around the build-up to the weekend’s game against LA Galaxy where the gaffer mentioned his good relationship with fellow Mexican Chicharito. Pineda remembers being there during the striker’s debut and joked that he never tackled Chicharito because he could never catch him. It specifically brought up the fact that despite the Galaxy’s lack of recent form, they are preparing their team as if they were facing a full-fledged Los Angeles team.
Notably, Pineda mentioned that the coaching staff were set to go and discuss whether Andrew Gutman would make the trip to Los Angeles, raising hopes the winger is progressing well after being seen training earlier in the season. week. Regardless of when Atlanta’s left-wing workaholic returns to the team, he’ll come into a much different style than he played when he left. Gutman tended to be very defensive in the previous 4-back system, but he made some very important runs in attack early in the season. I asked Pineda specifically how he involved his wingers like Wiley and McFadden more in attack, and he acknowledged that his 3 centre-backs plus a defensive midfielder were enough to stop a counter. This, of course, allows the wings to focus on the attack and not worry so much about falling back at times. He said that before the change he only encouraged one of the two teams to play forward so as not to leave the back exposed, so he will be curious to see how Gutman’s eventual return plays out in this. minor but significant training. .
A final noteworthy point made by Gonzalo was about the team’s efforts to try to race aggressively behind. He clearly wants to see more of these attacks, even stating that he has told each of his attacking players to do these runs while returning home to the point that the midfielder has to watch for the forward’s visual cues. Atlanta looked extremely dangerous in the moments when Josef Martinez, Ronaldo Cisneros, Luiz Araujo or Caleb Wiley can push a defender out of their pocket and create just a little space, because the team has incredible talent (Moreno and Almada) which can put the ball on a penny. The last 30 minutes of the game against Orlando is a great example of this, as Atlanta knocked on the door and completely turned the game around. Against an LA Galaxy team playing at home and wanting to right the ship, the Five Stripes may have just a little more room to exploit that style in exactly the same way.
Atlanta United enters the field late Sunday night, with a 9:55 kick-off against Chicharito and company. Does Pineda continue with a similar formation and does Josef end up in the starting XI? As usual, we’d love to hear your comments below and be sure to tune in to our late-night Twitter Spaces show as soon as the final whistle sounds. Bring lots of coffee.