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Gonzalo Pineda talks Atlanta United tactics, club direction

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“...put us in good position competing for the title...”

Atlanta United’s fresh new head coach Gonzalo Pineda sat down earlier in the week with Mike Conti and Jason Longshore on the AT&T Countdown to Kickoff to speak about his transition to the Dirty South. To describe the interview in one word...and I’m going to say it while knocking on wood...optimism. Atlanta United supporters are no stranger to falling short of lofty expectations in the past two years, but this man has a very human quality about him that oozes both tactical smarts and personable approachability. Pineda clearly sees the value in each player, and it’s obvious he’s done (and is still doing) his homework. That being said, here are a few of his glorious quotes from his war room somewhere in the rainy part of the country.

“I like what I see, we have a couple of injuries there and I think when everybody’s fit, this team is going to be dangerous. I can see the potential. Tactically, we are keeping the same kind of structure with the back 3. This team can very easily turn into a 4-3-3 with Sosa kind of being the holding center mid...”

I haven’t heard more refreshing words about Atlanta United in a long time. We should be dangerous and they should be scared; it’s the mindset the club was founded on, and we just haven’t consistently looked that way in far too long. Winning is one thing, winning emphatically is another. Pineda mentions that he’s been watching all of Luiz Araujo’s games with Lille to better understand him as a player, while going over formations and tactical tweaks since he’s been isolated with Covid-19. Thankfully and above all, he hasn’t had any major issues from the virus, so I’m going to selfishly say here: that’s exactly what a winning coach needs to be doing if he has to be stuck inside anyway.

“I can see a very fluid team, a very dynamic team, both in visually and tactically. Not an easy target, but that comes with time, that comes with work, and that comes with the commitment of the players. Because my ideas here on the tactical board are fantastic, I never lose a game on the tactical board, never!”

I think we can all agree that all signs point towards Pineda being a “work smarter, not harder” kind of guy. This game is just as much mental as it is physical, and being a smart player and smart coach puts the team ahead in every way. Think Michael Parkhurst. Maybe I’m just a sucker for outsmarting the other coach instead of dehydrating the team, though.

“Tuchel, the guy in Chelsea, what he did in Chelsea was fantastic. Actually, part of our work in Seattle when we changed the formation from the 4-2-3-1 to the backline of 3, I was taking a lot of clips from Chelsea, from Tuchel, and showed that to the players.”

Pineda mentions that Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel’s style was a large factor in changing Seattle’s formation, and those results speak volumes. A head coach who is a true student of the game and wants to take Atlanta United to the next level is always welcome. And if he studies as many YouTube videos as he says he does and applies what he learns from worldwide success, we’re in for some entertaining, winning football.

“It is what it is, I just have to deal with it. And again when you come [to the team] first time, you have a six-week period and you start to draw up your ideas, kind of every week on different topics or whatever. Now I have to be very careful how my message is going to be. I won’t be there and change everything in the first week.”

This was Gonzo’s message when asked how he is handling this transition differently than if he were to have had the whole pre-season to prepare. Pineda makes it abundantly clear he doesn’t want to inundate the players and club with massive changes. “Maybe two things [a week],” he mentions, and he specifies that it’s simply a matter of fine-tuning what Rob Valentino has already done. He sees that the team has clear talent, he just has to unlock it.

This past week should make any Atlanta United supporter salivate with hope and *knocks on wood* optimism. This interview with Gonzalo Pineda paints a clear picture of where he’s expecting to take the club, and that’s straight up to MLS Cup. When you watch the interview, listening to the man talk is like sitting down with an old friend and just enjoying talking about the beautiful game. The players have made it very obvious that a likable person such as Rob Valentino and now Pineda is a game changer in the locker room and on the field. Now it’s time to hope and pray the third-time-since-Tata is a charm.

He also mentions he’ll help Cubo Torres, so there’s that.