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Three thoughts on Atlanta United’s dismal 1-3 home loss to Charlotte FC

Another game, another uninspiring effort, and another awful result.

MLS: Charlotte FC at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United doesn’t have that dawg in em

It’s not just me saying this. It the team itself! Here’s Atlanta United’s newest Designated Player Giorgos Giakoumakis talking about it after Atlanta’s embarrassing home loss to Charlotte on Saturday:

“We have to start thinking that we need to change a few things. First of all, mentally we have to be stronger. We have to be tougher. We have to overcome different situations like the one we have right now. But I think we will work even harder in the training. We will talk between each other, and this is something that we need in this moment. We need to communicate a bit more. We need to realize how my teammate next to me is thinking, what is he expecting from me. What am I expecting from him. We need to understand that.

“It’s our mentality. We have to grow up and change our complete mentality. To basically create this champion mentality that we don’t have in the most possible way. Embracing that mentality, creating that mentality now the whole game will change for us.

“If you have the wrong mentality then you have lack of intensity and lack of expectations from yourself and when you don’t have expectations for yourself then your intensity is not that big.”

And Gonzalo Pineda:

“I feel like we are not at the level of intensity that we need to have, both on and off the ball. So more than the attack, because I feel that we created some decent chances, especially in the first half, but the levels of intensity are not there, so we need to fix that first and then we can correct some other stuff.

“It feels like the opponent wants it more than us, especially tonight...It feels like we haven’t come back to the beginning of the season, where I felt the full determination and the commitment. It isn’t like we are far away from that, not that far, but it feels like the opponent wants it a little bit more, in the last two games especially.

“We just need to just find that extra boost of intensity to get the results that we need. At times it can be pretty, and sometimes it might not be the best football, but we need to always have full commitment, and that it is what we need.

“Starting in the second half, you have a set play from very deep that they get in behind us, but that lack of attention and lack of intensity leads to the penalty and red card, and now it is a very different game. So, we need that level of intensity of high demand in every action, every reset, every throw-in, every set play, we need to be fully committed, and that is what we need to do.”

At least until Atlanta United wins another MLS Cup, editions of the team will always be compared to the highest standard we have seen — Tata Martino’s 2018 team, of course. And while we may compare the tactics employed or the quality of players on the roster most often, what doesn’t get talked about enough is the determination in that team. Despite the fact that the team probably knew it had the most talented group of players, they were among the most driven. Even Tata was fined for conducting too many training sessions that violated the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Players would fall to the ground exhausted at the ends of games. Until this team finds that spirit, as GG said, they won’t be champions.

This roster is tactically inflexible

The weaknesses of Atlanta United’s roster construction are starting to show more and more as the games go by. But most notably to me is that this team basically cannot change into any sort of two-striker system, which is a handy thing to be able to change to when chasing a goal or two in the second half. This was the beauty of having a player like Dom Dwyer. Sure, he may not have been well suited to starting many matches or playing as the lone No. 9. But paired up alongside an aggressive target man where he can play as a shadow striker, and he could be quite impactful as we all saw last season. Now, Gonzalo Pineda doesn’t have that option or any like it. He’s basically trying to use Machop Chol in that kind of role, who is obviously getting worse results. Dwyer has been pictured lately in Atlanta hanging out with some of his former teammates, and you have to wonder if the team would be interested in acquiring him on a short-term deal this summer. (And if not, why?)

Playing like this is how you lose support

Forget acquiring new fans. That ship has sailed until later on in the season when they can potentially make a postseason push. At this point, most people are so tuned out of Atlanta United due to such a prolonged period of mediocre-to-dismal performances, the main goal should be to keep the current supporters engaged and entertained. And they are on a slippery slope right now. Let’s go once again to Giorgos Giakoumakis:

“We said that that if we keep losing, keep dropping points then the fans will disappear, and they will be right. We bring the fans to the stadium, and we send them away with our performances. I hope that we will give them some joy to come and watch us.”