Atlanta United is preparing for the second match of their Round One Best-of-3 series in the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. The club lost the first game to 3-seed Columbus Crew 2-0 at Lower.com Field on November 1 and will have a chance to even the series at home on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
To prepare, Atlanta United held training at Mercedes-Benz Stadium where they will host Game 2 Tuesday night. Training was energetic, including a session of Rondos and competition to work on finishing. Following the session, midfielder Thiago Almada and head coach Gonzalo Pineda met with the media.
Here's what they had to say and full videos of their availability below:
Monday was the first opportunity to speak to Almada following the announcement earlier that morning that the 22-year-old had been named 2023 MLS Young Player of the Year, news he learned about during a surprise visit from his father, who is in town to watch his son play.
"I'm happy," Almada said. "It's an award that shows the work that I've put in and what I've accomplished during the season. But as I've always said, the most important thing is the team. So we're focused on that and very grateful for my teammates."
It was also the first time the media have spoken to Almada since the midfielder was issued a red card in the Decision Day match with FC Cincinnati, which suspended him from Atlanta's first match of MLS Cup Playoffs. The Argentine explained what happened on the pitch that day at TQL Stadium:
"In the moment, I forgot I had a yellow because I'm not used to being on a yellow card," he said. "But I want to take advantage of this moment and ask forgiveness from my teammates, from the fans, and to say that it won't happen again."
Almada served a one-game suspension for the red card, missing out on Atlanta's first match in the Round One Best-of-3 series, and will be available for selection for Game 2 on Tuesday.
Watch Almada's full press conference in full below:
Head coach Gonzalo Pineda
Head coach Gonzalo Pineda previewed the matchup with Columbus Crew during his availability. Although his team lost the first match, Pineda was positive about the team's output in Game 1. He also emphasized the stakes for Game 2 and that it means his team has to be all-in.
"We have to put the best of the best of what we have on the field, regardless of the opponent or the lineup that I choose or the information," he said. "We have to give the best. It's a must-win game. You have to win to go through or to earn the third game."
It's a slightly earlier kickoff time than usual with the match set to begin at 7 p.m. With the opportunity to host a playoff game at home, Pineda said that he wants the supporters to enjoy themselves, first and foremost, and that the energy in the building should come from the field to the fans.
"We're at home, and we need to come back to being us at home," Pineda said. "Throughout the year, we've played fantastic games at home, electric games with a lot of energy. We need that type of performance tomorrow to succeed."
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