Gonzalo Pineda, Thiago Almada on ‘staying alert’ against FC Cincinnati

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After a 2-2 draw against the Philadelphia Union, Atlanta United faces another test at home as FC Cincinnati rolls into Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a Saturday evening matchup. Cincinnati sits only one point above the 5-Stripes on the MLS Eastern Conference table with 12 points.

Attacking midfielder Thiago Almada and head coach Gonzalo Pineda spoke to local media about the challenges the squad may face playing Cincinnati and the game plan for securing another three points at home.

Thiago Almada

A word to describe the beginning of Atlanta’s season could be flexibility. An early off week, the March FIFA international window, and injuries to different players has required everyone to be alert and open when it comes to changes in the lineup.

Almada was one of the six Atlanta United players to be called up during the international window, representing Argentina’s U-23 team. Through the matches played, four different strikers have dressed. There has been an emphasis on staying the course despite the changing variables.

“I don’t think it changes,” said Almada when asked if the lineup switches impacted his play. “The system is the same, and whoever is playing does the best they can.”

Matches between Atlanta and Cincinnati have always been competitive, back-and-forth affairs, and Almada expressed that this one will likely follow in that tradition. When asked about how the club is looking at the matchup, Almada said that the team will have to “be alert, especially defensively.”

Gonzalo Pineda

The late comeback from the Philadelphia Union in the last match is something head coach Gonzalo Pineda is using as a teaching tool going forward. Including in the very near future against another tough team like FC Cincinnati.

“We talked about with the players – the alertness that we have to have in certain moments,” said Pineda. “It happened and we will learn from it. We watched the film, and I think tactically the team did well. We watched in the final third, how we can be more aggressive.”

He also expressed the team learning how to “consolidate” when they have the lead. It is not just about being diligent about maintaining the lead but also having the ability to push the lead if possible.

Pineda was also asked about several players that have stood out in the past couple of games. Homegrown Noah Cobb, who stepped up in place of Stian Gregersen, was mentioned.

“For me, it is a few things,” answered Pineda after being asked about what thing Cobb has improved on. “Number one, his aggression has improved big time. You see how confident he is to go one on one. The way he covers the space behind him, and his body position. His awareness of the surroundings; always understanding who is at his back, who is in front of him, and where he can jump or stay.”

He also spoke about how recent signing Daniel Ríos is settling into his role. Rios scored his first goal as an Atlanta United member against Philadelphia in the second half of the match.

“I think he is adapting to that specific environment, where he is the only nine; he has to hold that position a little bit more. But he is doing very good. He doesn’t need many chances to score goals which is good,” said Pineda. “And nine goals out of my three strikers is not a bad record to have.”

Atlanta looks to add to that record against FC Cincinnati on Saturday. The match will be streamed on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV on Saturday night at 7:30pm ET when the action kicks off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Fans can also listen to the game on 92.9 The Game (English) or La Mejor – AM 16000 (Spanish).

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