Training Notebook: Taking on the Windy City 

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After a double homestand at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta United is going back on the road to face Chicago Fire FC. Atlanta United looks to bounce back after dropping five points of six against two teams toward the top of the MLS Eastern Conference table – the Philadelphia Union and FC Cincinnati.

Hungry for three points, and increasing their confidence on the road, Atlanta United enters Saturday’s matchup with high expectations.

Head coach Gonzalo Pineda and striker Giorgos Giakoumakis spoke with local media on Thursday. Here are some of the storylines coming out of media availability from Tuesday and Thursday at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground:

Availability Update

Though it’s still early in the 2024 season, Atlanta United has dealt with their fair share of injuries. Stian Gregersen underwent successful meniscus surgery in late March, and this week the Norwegian defender has been practicing with the team. At Thursday’s media availability, head coach Gonzalo Pineda said Gregersen “will have some involvement” when it comes to playing on Saturday.

Gregersen coming back is a good sign for the 5-Stripes backline. He was acquired during the offseason for his stout defensive presence. Homegrown Noah Cobb stepped into Gregersen place and played well during that time.

Giakoumakis saw playing time against FC Cincinnati, entering the match as a substitute in the 60th minute, after missing two games due to injury. He is expected to play against Chicago, while Xande Silva is out for the match.

During media, Giakoumakis said he is “healthy and happy to able to here with the team.”

Training Photos: Week of April 23

Managing emotions and taking accountability

A large talking point coming out of the draw against Philadelphia and the loss against Cincinnati is how Atlanta United responds to opponents making pushes in the attack. In both Eastern Conference clashes, the 5-Stripes conceded leads. Going into Chicago, Pineda as well as several of the players have spoken on the adjustments being made when it comes to consolidating in-match situations.

Despite the results of the last two matches not being what the squad wanted, everyone is on the same page when it comes to reflecting and moving forward to get the next win. Giakoumakis said that getting the focus now is on getting three points against Chicago and taking it one game at a time.

“One simple thing I can tell you is that we have to stay concentrated,” said Giakoumakis when asked about what discussions the team has had about the last two games. “Think like champions, because you cannot drop this amount of points when you are leading a game.”

Even with the injury and travel due to the international FIFA callup, Giakoumakis has started off 2024 strong. He has already made MLS Team of the Matchday twice this season and hopes to continue that dominance this weekend.

Being dominate on the road

Accumulating as many road wins as possible has been a goal for Atlanta coming into the season. With aspirations to earn a top four spot in the Eastern Conference table, the 5-Stripes know that performing well on the road is important. The last road match for them went well as they came from behind to earn a point against New York City FC.

Atlanta and Chicago played each other earlier this season on March 31st at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Getting the second clean sheet so far, Atlanta bested their opponent 3-0 off a brace from Jamal Thiaré. Despite the Chicago Fire facing some challenges of their own and possibly missing players due to injury, Atlanta’s coaching staff know that they still have a tough matchup ahead.

“Number one, there are no easy matches in MLS,” said Pineda. “It is always difficult to play in that stadium; sometimes it can be windy. They have very good players, and they have a very good coaching staff that prepares them to compete at the highest level.”

Pineda went on to say that the key to a win will be matching the high compete level that he expects Chicago will show them. He says it is his job to prepare his players for the “best possible Chicago.” With accountability in mind, Pineda wants the team to stay alert, even with the natural ebbs and flows that come with soccer.

“The process we have, we expect it to translate to three points,” said Pineda. “At times, you have to create certain situations on the field to spark a reaction, and some toughness or some resilience. That will bring more discussions and more accountability… as much as it hurt me and my coaching staff (losing five points), you can see it hurt them. They were not happy with that, and that is why I think they will have a good response against Chicago.”

Fans can tune in to see Atlanta’s response on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV. As well as following along on the Matchday Hub.

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