Noah Cobb, Gonzalo Pineda on “picking battles” in coming match against D.C United

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After a terrific win to move on to the next round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Atlanta United are preparing for their next MLS matchup. On Saturday, May 11, they will take on D.C United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hoping to build momentum off the 3-0 dominant victory, they look to get a much needed three points at home.

Homegrown Noah Cobb and head coach Gonzalo Pineda spoke to local media on Thursday about carrying over the good vibes from Tuesday match against Charlotte Independence, and how they hope to handle D.C United's Christian Benteke.

Noah Cobb

With Stian Gregersen out due to injury, homegrown Noah Cobb has been integral to the Atlanta United’s backline this season. Cobb, along with the rest of the defenders that will play Saturday, will have their work cut out for them. Christian Benteke, one of D.C.’s forwards, is leading his team in scoring and he ranked third in the league in goals with eight. Much of D.C.’s offense so far this season has run through Benteke.

In order to get the results they want, the 5-Stripes know that shutting him down is key.

“Everyone know who he is,” said Cobb after being asked what he must do to combat Benteke’s scoring prowess. “We know what type of player he is; he’s a big number nine. I am just going to have to pick my battles and be smart.”

Benteke is also known for how physical he is on the ball, but that is not preventing Cobb or the rest of the team from getting the job done. Cobb acknowledged that having players like Tristan Muyumba and Bartosz Slisz in front of him in the midfield will help “deter passes”.

Something that Atlanta looks to improve on is how they react to in game situations. They practice different set pieces, but nothing really compares to the real thing. Patience and making good decisions are important components to not giving up scoring chances, especially when the other team starts to push offensively. D.C. United does most of their work in the middle, trying to use that more aggressive style to get the other team off balance.

“I think with a team that is more direct, we will probably have the ball more, so it is about picking the right times,” said Cobb. “It depends on the circumstance, because a lot of the time when a team plays direct, especially in front of the goalkeeper, the line can be high. It is about how you can get behind and exploit it.”

Cobb’s time with the first team has been impactful. He is top ranked in the world for playing time for someone of his age.

Gonzalo Pineda

Tuesday’s victory marked a positive shift for the 5-Stripes. Head coach Gonzalo Pineda was pleased with the effort his group showed against Charlotte Independence. And though the win was towards the U.S. Open Cup and not MLS play, Pineda thinks that the three goals and clean sheet will only help against D.C.

“The thing is - it is Atlanta United. It is not another group,” said Pineda when asked about if what the team accomplished against Charlotte can be carried to Saturday. “Many of the players who played there can play on Saturday. It is not another group or another tournament to me. It is us competing against an opponent and we were good; we won. That will boost the whole organization for sure. I hope we can take that momentum with us and go get three points on Saturday.”

A part of that gameplan to carry momentum is having full control over the midfield. Pineda praised the work of Muyumba and Slisz, as well as MLS veteran Dax McCarty. McCarty was a part of the starting XI for the match against Charlotte. His composure and patience in the midfield on full display.

“He brings experience,” said Pineda about McCarty. “But the massive thing is the leadership. I think he is a true, true leader on the team. He has been amazing. He is willing to do whatever he needs to do for the good of the team. So, then he has the belief of the players around him. At the same time, I think he is a great footballer.”

Pineda said that having his midfielders in their defined roles, along with “having the ball more and having some protections tactically” is how Atlanta can get good results against D.C.

Fans can make sure they do not miss the 7:30 p.m. kickoff or any of the action by watching on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV. They can also listen live on local radio on 92.9 The Game (English) and La Mejor (Spanish).

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