With Pineda at the helm, Atlanta United players predict smoother sailing in 2022

Brad Guzan
Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan addresses the media following the club's first preseason workout. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

The 2021 season did not start well for Atlanta United.

After a rocky beginning, the club made a midseason coaching change and eventually earned a playoff spot under its new leader, Gonzalo Pineda.

As the team opened training camp in Marietta on Tuesday, Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan says the good vibes around Pineda are still there — even if the coach himself wasn’t because of COVID-19 safety protocols.

“You know there’s a certain buzz around the building, which is always good,” said Guzan. “Obviously, the world we live in at the minute, these types of things happen.”

Atlanta United fans and players are hoping the soccer team can recapture its previous glory in the upcoming season, which begins Feb. 27 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Consistency on the field and on the sidelines could be the key.

Guzan says Pineda’s willingness to listen to his players and to other members of the organization was the key to the team’s turnaround last year. He expects even more improvement going forward.

Atlanta United
Atlanta United held its first workout Tuesday ahead of the 2022 season which begins Feb. 27. (Emil Moffatt/WABE News)

“I think with a preseason it certainly allows us that timeframe to now try and really grasp the concepts of what they want us to do. But then also hold each other accountable and hold each other to a high standard and have a real understanding of what it takes to win,” said Guzan.

If the club does win this year, it will happen with largely the same roster.

The team made only a few off-season moves. But one of them was the signing of MLS veteran Ozzie Alonso, a former teammate of Pineda’s in Seattle.

Alonso says the mutual respect between the two should help ease that transition.

“From being my teammate to being my head coach, it has to change, but we have to respect each other. I do my thing on the field and he does his thing outside the field,” said Alonso.

Team president Darren Eales says 91% of season ticket holders renewed for the upcoming season. Atlanta United is by far the top draw in Major League Soccer and is among the leaders in attendance in the world.

“We’re coming off a bit of a rollercoaster season from last year,” said Eales. “Obviously lots of highs and lows, but we finished in great form.”