It’s no surprise Atlanta United would appear on the MLS Team of the Matchday presented by Audi following the team’s resounding 5-2 victory over Inter Miami CF Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. On Monday morning, the club had three names on the list for Matchday 32.
Trailing a goal to Miami, Lennon played a role in kicking off the scoring for Atlanta United. He made an overlapping run and received a pass from Edwin Mosquera on the right side near the endline, then crossed it near post where Muyumba was running on. The midfielder redirected Lennon’s pass with a header that clanged the opposite post and over the goal line. It was Atlanta’s first goal of the night and Lennon’s 10th assist on the season.
From there, the fun began for Atlanta United – the team would go on to add two more goals in the first half in record time and finish the night with five. One of the five different goal scorers on the night was Lennon. After a Miami own goal in the 41st put Atlanta United ahead 2-1, the home team moved the ball down the pitch looking for more. Caleb Wiley took his defender 1v1 on the left side, which brought the ball to the edge of the box. Lennon found a pocket and received a low, short pass from Wiley. He collected quickly as four Miami defenders collapsed on him and slammed it home with his right foot to score the team’s third goal in an eight-minute span.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Pineda said during his post-match press conference. “I hope we can train even more on those combination plays to make sure that we are not predictable in the way that we attack in the final third.”
Lennon, who reportedly has covered the most distance out of any player in MLS this season and is known to be one of Atlanta United’s most reliable players, has been on the MLS Team of the Matchday three times this season. Previously, he appeared July 3 after the team’s shutout win over Philadelphia Union. He also appeared earlier this year for his two assists in the 4-0 win over Colorado Rapids.
Saturday was the fourth game in Lennon's career that he recorded both a goal and an assist. He now has four goals and 10 assists this season, both career-highs. His assist total currently ranks tied for fourth in MLS. His teammate Thiago Almada, who had a record-breaking night himself, currently leads the league in the assists category.
Pineda was also recognized by the league Monday and was named MLS Coach of the Matchday. It’s the second time that Pineda has earned the honor this season. He previously received the honor after the team’s 2-0 shutout win on the road over Seattle Sounders, Pineda’s former team.
Pineda has been preaching the mantra that “every game is a final” ever since the team had 10 matches remaining, and Atlanta United seems to be living up to the heightened intensity in their push toward the MLS Cup Playoffs. Since Leagues Cup, Atlanta United has earned four out of five results and outscored their opponents 14-6. The club’s only loss in their last five games came against the Supporters’ Shield leading FC Cincinnati on August 30.
“I could not be more proud of the team,” Pineda said. “The mentality of the team is something we talk about a lot during training sessions and message during film, so I cannot be more proud of my team. Tonight, they showed heart, passion, intelligence, good football. Also, they showed a good mentality.”
The award for Pineda comes on the heels, once again, of an intriguing coaching matchup. The first time he was named Coach of the Matchday this season was following the win in Seattle against his former head coach and mentor, Brian Schmetzer. This time around, Pineda went up against Tata Martino, current Miami coach and the first head coach in Atlanta United’s history.
In the lead-up to this match, and the last-minute news that Lionel Messi would not be traveling with Miami, Pineda said he told the players to remain focused and true to their identity. And the results on the pitch followed.
“Honestly, I told the players… ‘there are a lot of things floating around in the atmosphere, but they all seem to be about Inter Miami, Messi, and all of that.’ So, I told them we have to turn that down and make it about us, about Atlanta United, and in that sense, I told them we have to play our game. Just because of Messi and Inter Miami, we will still play our way.”
Muyumba was also honored with a spot on the bench in this edition of MLS Team of the Matchday. On Saturday, Muyumba recorded his first goal as a member of Atlanta United. The goal arrived at a big moment with Atlanta United trailing a goal after Miami opened the scoring. Muyumba headed a cross from Lennon to equalize the match 1-1 in the 36th minute.
Muyumba’s goal also set the tone for the rest of the night. His header opened the scoring for Atlanta United, and the team would go on to score two more goals in the first half and tally five goals on the night.
For his performance, Muyumba also received Star of the Match honors. The midfielder played all 90 minutes for Atlanta United. He finished the night with 13 duels won and ranked second in expected goals (0.50) behind only striker Giorgos Giakoumakis.