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Atlanta United Training Day With Amar Sejdic and Brooks Lennon

Working to tidy up the mistakes while season ticket holders watch on

Atlanta United Training Day
DSS/Tyler Pilgrim

Scorching. The late June, Georgia sun was beaming down on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground Wednesday as players meandered out to the pitch. That failed to deter a huge number of 17’s, though. The grounds were full of season ticket-holding supporters who were invited out to watch Atlanta United train as the team looks forward to facing Philadelphia Union at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.

Andrew Gutman meets up with Atlanta United supporters
DSS/Tyler Pilgrim

The day started with the players taking a warmup lap by the fans, with head coach Gonzalo Pineda saying a few words about what to expect. After meeting up with the supporters, Pineda stepped over to speak with the media about the day’s training session. The main focus of the day was on bypassing the pressure that Philly’s two strikers will bring, and eliminating the recent mistakes that’ve occurred in the team’s build up play.

To combat Philly’s press, the team ran various drills designed to encourage accurate passing, better receptions, and forward movement. One such drill involved few players at a time who had to make a minimum of six completed passes before driving forward to play the ball into one of two low, small goals. It gave one side a chance to work on their own aggression and press, while the other side focused on playing through the lines and being dangerous around goal - something that was lacking in the recent match against Red Bulls.

Each drill essentially focused on the same concept, but got larger until it was an 11 v 11. The wings were heavily involved in creating space, and ultimately both sides were successful - there were some great goals both from the build up and also from disrupting the build up and forcing the turnover.

When training finished, supporters enjoyed visits from the players, who worked their way down the line signing autographs and taking photos. Amar Sejdic and Brooks Lennon then hung back to speak with the media.

Sejdic spoke about the midfield formation and how the players in those positions have been working on being less static and more dynamic. He specifically talked about the positional players not being hindered in their movement by their “titles,” i.e. the defensive midfielder not moving forward solely because they’re a defensive midfielder, or the central midfielder not pressing higher or dropping back further defensively when needed. That dynamic is something to clearly keep an eye on in the next few matches, as the benefits are clear, but the downside is definitely a lack of chemistry as the players develop that understanding of their roles.

Sejdic also praised Giakoumakis, describing him as a “leader” in the locker room, and “very passionate” about the game. He noted that GG always expects the best of himself, and gets frustrated when he makes a mistake.

Brooks Lennon took the stage next, and piggybacked on Sejdic’s discussion about Giakoumakis.

“When he first arrived, we discussed where he likes the ball, so on some crosses I don’t need to pick my head up. I know what his goal is in this league and it’s my job to help him get there.”

Brooks also talked about the importance of the wings, especially in this upcoming match vs Philly, in feeding GG and getting him more involved. The wingers will play a crucial role in combating Philly’s midfield diamond and keeping each side from being overrun will be a constant battle.

Lennon gave praise to the homegrowns, as well, specifically noting how they’ve been great at taking advantage of their minutes this season. He pointed out the chemistry he and Tyler Wolff are building on the right wing, and said he was working with Wolff on assisting him in certain aspects of his play as he matures. A self-described mentor, Lennon also stated that his main piece of advice for any pf the younger players was simply to “believe in their abilities.” Ted Lasso jokes aside, he said that some guys reach the first team level early while others are “late bloomers,” but ultimately they’re given those minutes because they deserve to be there.

The Five Stripes are back at it on Sunday as Philadelphia Union comes to town, completely free on Apple TV (if you don’t already have a subscription). Atlanta is sitting at a precarious 6th in the Eastern Conference just prior to the summer transfer window, so it’s becoming more crucial to implement what’s being fed on the training ground onto the pitch and translate it all into three points. In the meantime, be sure to keep your eye on Dirty South Soccer for all the latest news (hopefully transfer-related soon) and be sure to comment below!