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Gonzalo Pineda reflects on “encouraging” 2023 while acknowledging club’s “Achilles heel” of “leaking goals”

Atlanta United’s head coach met the media following the team’s elimination from the MLS Cup Playoffs.

MLS: MLS Cup Eastern Conference First Round-Game 3-Atlanta United FC at Columbus Crew SC Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

As Atlanta United’s 2023 season ended at the hands of the Columbus Crew on Sunday evening thanks to a 4-2 loss in Game 3 of the 1st round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, Gonzalo Pineda was positive about the season as a whole.

That said, Atlanta United’s head coach conceded that he’ll need to take a “longer analysis” as he prepares to set the club’s course for 2024.

“The last 10 games were encouraging,” he said. “The last three games here we faced a very, very good team. Columbus is a very good team and they were better than us in two of the three matches and we need to regroup, and improve for next year.”

That’s not to say that Pineda wasn’t cognizant of the elephant in the room, and that was Atlanta’s propensity to concede goals at either a high rate or late in matches. Despite finishing 2nd in the MLS regular season with 66 goals, Atlanta allowed 53.

On Sunday, the Crew scored 3 times in the first 33 minutes, outscoring Atlanta 12-3 at Field in 3 matches across all competitions.

“Leaking goals has been our Achilles’ heel all season and one thing we definitely have to take look at and how we can solidify that,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the defenders, goalkeepers, center mids only. It’s everyone as a whole. We need to do better. That was my thoughts on today’s match, especially in the first half.”

Correcting that problem grows in importance with Miles Robinson’s future with the club in major question. All signs point to the center-back, who is out of contract on Dec. 31, leaving the club on a free transfer despite being offered an extension.

Whatever changes occur to Atlanta’s backline — or elsewhere — is something Pineda is taking in stride.

“My experience in almost 10 years in MLS is that every year there are changes,” he said. “I don’t know how many changes there are going to be. We have to talk to Carlos [Bocanegra] and everyone to make an analysis on the whole squad ... because we know [there] always are changes. We have to make sure we take this as a foundation. It’s not like starting all over again. I think it’s just maybe new additions can make us a bit better as well.”

To that end, don’t expect philosophical changes, Pineda said.

“We’re not very far ... We’re happy in the way we play [and] the style of the team,” he said. “It’s just making plays defensively, and at times it’s collectively as a unit ... it’s about those little details that we need to do better collectively and individually.”