Gonzalo Pineda is grateful to have been given the chance to spend two weeks on the training ground with his players as he aims to kickstart his Atlanta United tenure.
Former Seattle Sounders assistant Pineda suffered defeat in his first match in charge, the Five Stripes going down 2-0 at home to Nashville SC on August 28.
That loss ended a run of four successive victories under caretaker Rob Valentino, and new boss Pineda will be looking to put things right against Orlando City SC.
Asked what aspects his side have been working on in training since their last match, Pineda said: “The first one is the mentality.
“After a tough loss, bringing the players back into the working hard, training hard and competition. The competitive side is very important.
“Then obviously the tactics. The game plan against Orlando, understanding what we are trying to do and managing personnel, managing people, knowing the players better.
“So those three things were the main focus the last two weeks and we are very happy with the outcome.”
Orlando enter the game unbeaten in seven, winning the most recent of those 3-2 against Columbus Crew to remain second in the Eastern Conference standings.
City beat Atlanta 3-2 when the sides met at the end of July, but Oscar Pareja is anticipating a different test at Mercedes-Benz Stadium now Pineda has his feet under the desk.
“We’re obviously trying to analyze our rival that has changed head coach, and now they can bring new ideas,” he said. “Our preparation has been trying to reinforce our concepts.
“We’re trying to adjust our returning players to the rhythm of our training and our competitions, but it’s a big help to have everybody available and competing.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Atlanta United – Luiz Araujo
Pineda is unsure on the availability of his returning international players, but designated player Araujo looks certain to feature on Friday. The former Lille attacker has caught the eye in his first three games for Atlanta but has yet to find the back of the net, something he will be eager to change sooner rather than later.
Orlando City SC – Daryl Dike
United States striker Dike has returned to fitness and has given his side more of an edge in attack, which will come in handy over the final stretch of regular-season matches. He scored his 20th career goal on his 50th senior appearance with the opener in last week’s win against Columbus, a return that includes 11 goals in 28 games for Orlando.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Orlando are unbeaten in six straight matches against Atlanta (W3 D3) after failing to win any of the first eight games between the sides (D2 L6). Orlando won the last meeting 3-2 at home but have never won consecutive games against the Five Stripes.
– Atlanta’s four-match winning streak ended with a 2-0 loss to Nashville in their last match. Atlanta’s only losing streak of the season, which came in July, saw them lose to Orlando following a defeat against the Crew.
– Orlando extended their unbeaten run to seven matches (W3 D4) with a 3-2 win over the Crew on Saturday. It is the second-longest unbeaten run in the club’s MLS history behind only a 12-match streak from August to October 2020.
– Josef Martinez has scored eight goals in eight games against Orlando City in his career. His 1.15 goals per 90 against the Lions is the third best of any player against a single opponent in MLS regular season history (minimum 500 minutes).
– Two of Orlando’s three goals against the Crew last week came from outside the box. Orlando have now scored seven times from outside the area this season, tied with the Crew for most in MLS. All seven of Orlando’s goals from outside the box have come from open play, compared to just two of the Crew’s seven.