At the end of training on Tuesday, some of the team’s attacking players gathered on one side of the field. Luiz Araújo, Josef Martínez, Thiago Almada took turns taking penalty kicks from inside the box. With their artful kicks, the attackers put one of Atlanta United's most recent signings, goalkeeper Raúl Gudiño, to the test in goal.
A friendly competition broke out between the kick takers and goalkeepers. Gudiño at times looked effortless blocking shots with his 6-foot-5 frame. At other times, the attackers got the better end, putting away shots with confidence. Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth joined the action as well, making a great stop diving to his left side.
Atlanta United is coming off a tough 2-1 loss to Toronto FC, which may mean light, competitive moments like this one shouldn’t happen. The team certainly felt the loss (head coach Gonzalo Pineda said the team had a “very quiet” session on Monday), but with two consecutive matches in New York, including a midweek match on Thursday, the team must move on and look ahead.
Pineda prefers his team that way. With the slew of injuries the team has faced this season, including the latest to defender Brooks Lennon, it’d be easy to carry a lot of negativity. But Pineda wants his team to take the loss then roll up their sleeves and get back to work.
“Today was a very energetic training session,” he said. “I prefer that mood. Not that we’re happy, but we’re enjoying what we do… I prefer them to be mature, to be understandable of where we are in the season, that still there are many games ahead.”
Here are a few more insights and observations from the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground:
Luiz Araujo’s Connections
One of the brightest spots this season so far for Atlanta United has been the play of Luiz Araújo. The forward has scored three goals in the club’s last six MLS matches, including the club’s sole goal on Saturday in Toronto. Against Inter Miami on June 19, the Brazilian tallied an assist to go along with his impressive curling goal, which led Atlanta United to three points.
Araújo credits the play of the attack. Combining with teammates such as Josef Martínez, Marcelino Moreno and Ronaldo Cisneros, who the club extended on loan through the end of the 2022 season, has helped create opportunities for Araújo.
“I think we’re playing together,” Araújo said. “We have to improve defensively, and offensively we have to score more goals, but those are the things we’re trying to do and we hope that we can show it in this game.”
The team will need not only Araújo’s scoring prowess but also his speed and his skill against the Red Bulls on Thursday. The Red Bulls are known for playing a high pressing style, so it will be important for Araújo and the rest of Atlanta United to retain possession.
“They’re a difficult team to play, but it’s not just them, I think all the opponents that we face in MLS are difficult,” Araújo said. “Red Bulls has a lot of quality to be able to press but just like any team, they also have their weaknesses. So we’re focused on what we need to do.”
Meeting Juanjo Purata
Juan José “Juanjo” Purata, like his counterpart Gudiño, has been training with the team since joining the club last week. Purata and Gudiño will be available for selection when the MLS secondary transfer window opens on July 7, which means the first potential match they could see action is July 9 against Austin FC. Although they won’t play this weekend on the New York trip, Pineda shared that the two will be traveling with the team to get acquainted.
On Tuesday after training, Purata spoke with the media for the first time since his signing. The center back joined Atlanta United from Tigres UANL, a professional Mexican club in Monterrey that plays in Liga MX. Purata credits his time at Tigres with helping him develop a strong work ethic and winning mentality.
“I’m used to being part of that environment, I’m used to winning,” he said. “So, I think that’s what I can try and bring to this team is that experience coming from a place where we were expected to win all the time.”
Purata said he didn’t think twice about joining Atlanta United when the opportunity arose, even though he could’ve waited and stayed at Tigres, a club where he’s played his entire professional career up until this point. The 24-year-old wanted to play for his fellow countryman, Pineda. As a player who considers himself a leader, Purata believes that he can bring experience and commitment to a relatively young Atlanta United team.
“It excites me to come here where it felt like I was needed,” Purata said. “I’m also very committed to being here and very motivated.”
Join us on July 9 when we return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to take on one of the league's hottest teams, Austin FC.
Finding The Goal Against New York Red Bulls
Atlanta United faces tough odds in the final two matches of this stretch of consecutive away games. The club has never won an MLS regular season match at either Red Bull Arena against New York Red Bulls or Yankee Stadium against New York City FC. What makes playing at Red Bull Arena even tougher is Atlanta United has never scored a goal in that building.
Fortunately, Atlanta United is trending positively in that category lately. The last time Atlanta United was held scoreless was back in April against FC Cincinnati. The club has recorded six multi-goal matches since then, including all competitions.
“Out of the stretch of three games, we already wasted an opportunity to win something in Toronto, whether it’s one point or three,” Pineda said. “So now, we need to regain that in the next two games in New York. So yes, this game is very important.”