Three MLS games without a win and just one goal scored during that time; things are tough right now for Atlanta United.
Their latest setback was a 2-1 defeat away at Inter Miami on Sunday - a game in which the Five Stripes took the lead through Ronaldo Cisneros, were denied at least one clear penalty, and dominated in almost every statistical sense.
Atlanta controlled 63% away from home and outshot their hosts 20-7, creating 2.14 xG compared to Inter Miami's 1.87. But for all their good work in getting ahead, wastefulness cost the visitors, who were undone by another fine performance from Wolves loanee Leonardo Campana, scoring Inter Miami's equalizer and assisting the winner.
Of course, Atlanta United are having to cope without star striker Josef Martinez, while Brazilian forward Luiz Araujo is only just returning to fitness and isn't yet ready for a full 90 minutes in MLS. Missing two DP goalscorers would hurt any team in the league.
“For sure, that’s a big part of it. We are missing two big pieces of our attack, Josef Martinez and Luiz Araujo, in terms of goal production and all that. I’m cognizant of that," Pineda said after Sunday's match.
Even so, Atlanta United have the most expensive player in MLS history on the field in Thiago Almada, while attacking midfielder Marcelino Moreno would get into the starting XI of most teams in the league. There should still be enough firepower in this team to cause more damage to the opposition.
"I think we still can score many more goals, even without those two important players," Pineda added. "I think the way we’re creating the chances is important to me. We just need to do better. Again, this is why the forwards earn a lot of money, because they know how to put the ball in the back of the net. That’s the game.”
And Pineda raises a good point: Atlanta United are still creating chances. The 2018 MLS Cup champions are seventh in the league for Expected Goals (13.23), tied for fourth for shots on target (43), and third for key passes (88).
As Pineda notes, this is a 'better problem to have'. Keep creating and the goals will come, especially when someone as effective as Araujo returns to full fitness.
“We can continue playing offensively and trying to create chances. This is a better problem to have. Not being clinical when you create too many chances, rather than not even creating at all," Pineda observed, adding: "We have to try to be more clinical. In time, I think this thing will change. With the amount of chances we’re creating, I think we’re going to score way more goals."
Goalscorer on the day Cisneros - who missed with four of his five shots - added: “I think the team has been playing really well. We have been creating chances and the ball just hasn’t been going in.
"I think what we need to do is continue working and continuing to create those goalscoring plays and try to be superior to the opponent. We just have to continue to work on those.”
It's clear that Atlanta United's focus on the training field will be shooting drills ahead of their trip to CF Montreal on Saturday.