Atlanta United

Atlanta United building attacking 'momentum' but still lack 'killer mentality'

Chris Smith
Araujo is clicking with his attacking teammates.
Araujo is clicking with his attacking teammates. / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United's star-studded attack is finally starting to click into gear.

Across their five MLS matches between April 2nd-30th, the Five Stripes scored just three goals and failed to hit the net more than once in a single game.

But Atlanta now have six goals in their last two games, with a 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution going alongside a 4-1 win over the Chicago Fire - Gonzalo Pineda's side also took a 2-0 lead away at Nashville SC in the US Open Cup before succumbing to a 3-2 defeat.

MLS record signing Thiago Almada and Brazilian forward Luiz Araujo have been the main orchestrators, notching a combined two goals and three assists across those two MLS matches. Ronaldo Cisneros scored a hat-trick against the Fire, and Marcelino Moreno has been on hand to connect the dots.

Thiago Almada's opener against the Revs was a stunning strike, but the true extent of Atlanta United's attacking cohesion was shown in their second goal, with Moreno feeding Araujo, who chipped a ball through to Almada for his second of the day. By the end of play, Atlanta had attempted 26 shots, with 17 inside the box.

“I think we understand each other really well,” Almada said postgame. “We have really talented players, and we need to take advantage of that. Guys like Luiz, Marcelino, Ronaldo, we just have to keep working together, keep trying to find ways to improve, and keep searching for those goals.”

Araujo believes it was just a matter of time before things clicked with the Five Stripes. You can't keep so many top-class players quiet forever.

“Now we’ve had more training, more time playing together and things are going well,” the Brazilian added. “I think little by little we’re going to improve and score many more goals.”

Pineda was thrilled to finally see his team play with the handbrake off.

"I felt that we did so many good things," the Mexican head coach said. "Really good things in terms of positions, creating chances and it is just the feeling. You can feel how passionate the team is about attacking and creating chances. The momentum and environment was really good."

As dazzling as Atlanta United's attacking play is, it needs to be recognized that they have a defensive problem. Season-ending injuries to Brad Guzan, Miles Robinson, and Ozzie Alonso haven't helped, of course. But the Five Stripes continue to make fundamental errors that are more the result of losing concentration than missing personnel.

Atlanta United have conspired to concede 16 goals in MLS so far this season and have kept just two clean sheets.

Cut out those lapses and Atlanta would have taken two extra points from this game - enough to see them go level with NYCFC on 17 - and gone through to the last 16 of the US Open Cup.

"We couldn’t capitalize on those moments where we were dominant in the game," Pineda lamented. "The opponent was able to counter it and create those chances, some dangerous chances that we need to fix because we need to be more solid defensively.”

Pineda added that his team must find a way to keep their intensity and positivity even when they concede a goal, breaking the current pattern of Atlanta United pressing pause for at least one spell per match.

"It is about when we concede a goal for x and y reasons. We cannot stop playing. We cannot slow down and drop our body language, and we cannot allow to lose five or 10 minutes of the game. We need to continue going again, what we do better, which is attacking," he said.

Pineda continued: "We have ups and downs throughout the game and that is what we need to learn, to be more consistent. The killer mentality that we always talk about this team, we need to be more clinical in those moments.”

Atlanta United return to Nashville on Saturday, this time in MLS play.