It may not have been his ideal start, after a positive Covid-19 test delayed his arrival to Atlanta and left him to quarantine and conduct team meetings over Zoom, but the Gonzalo Pineda era is officially underway at Atlanta United. Twelve days after the club announced him as its new head coach, Pineda was able to hit the ground running on Tuesday and lead his first training session at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Grounds.
“I love the energy that the kids have,” Pineda said during his first in-person media availability after practice. “I just want to pick it up and keep raising the intensity of the team.”
Here are a few more key observations from a glimpse at Pineda’s first practice.
Competition At Practice
While Pineda stated that the focus of today’s training was about explaining routines to players and going over the daily schedule, the intensity on the training pitch was palpable. Pineda took players through drills, gave instructions and encouraged quick play during the muggy August morning in Marietta. At the end of practice, he split the players into four teams that competed in two games of 5-v-5, a staple in Pineda’s coaching style and training structure.
“I always like to finish with some sort of games,” Pineda said. “Just for the competitive side of it, and they get used to competing. Compete for winning.”
Kudos To Rob Valentino
Pineda took some time to specifically thank Rob Valentino for his leadership during the head coaching transition. Valentino was named the interim head coach on July 18 and managed the team through eight matches, going 4-2-2 over that span.
“Rob has been fantastic with the players first, which is the most important one,” Pineda said. “He’s a super humble person, a super hard worker, and willing to learn. And I need that type of assistance next to me. Rob has been just amazing. So kudos to Rob.”
Atlanta United’s leadership has emphasized that the midseason coaching change would be more about making little improvements than a massive shift. Although Pineda will be looking to make his own imprint on the club, he also emphasized that there are things he won’t be looking to change right off the bat.
“The last part of the season, I would say, I’d like to be consistent,” he said. “I would like to maintain the same lineup and the same formation so the players can have some consistency and they can get more connections and get used to each other.”
Pineda spoke about the connectivity in the midfield, specifically between “BAMM” – Ezequiel Barco, Luiz Araújo, Marcelino Moreno and Josef Martinez – a group that has accounted for all but one of the team’s 12 goals in the past eight games and played well during the current four-game winning streak.
“I love that they are dangerous in the attack,” Pineda said. “When Barco takes the ball forward and starts to dribble with the space and then Luiz is attacking, Bello is attacking, Josef is attacking, Brooks Lennon is attacking… I mean, it looks dangerous. And I like that part.”
Bello, Robinson Out Of Practice
Defenders George Bello and Miles Robinson were not at practice on Tuesday because they are among the 26 players representing the MLS in the 2021 MLS All-Star Game. The league announced that Bello was added to the roster on August 23. The game will air on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 and Univision.