After a morale-boosting 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake during the week, Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda is looking for his players to add some bite to their game against Orlando City.
The Five Stripes host their foes in a Rivalry Week clash on Sunday much higher on confidence having put the memory of an embarrasing 3-0 defeat to Austin FC behind them with a victory against RSL.
But Atlanta United still sit quite some distance off the pace in the MLS Cup Playoff race thanks to a run of just two victories in their last nine matches – they are yet to win back-to-back games this season.
For a team under such high expectations, now is the time to start fighting extra hard for points.
“I think the message is very clear; we know how we can get results, and I think the team just needs to continue with that,” Pineda said in a pre-match press conference. “That type of mentality has to stick with the team for the rest of the season. Regardless of how good of football we play, or how good of results we get, we have to fight and compete the same way we did.”
Many head coaches prefer to play down the effect a rivalry match has on their players, often labeling games like these as just another chance to pick up three points.
But Pineda is fully aware of the importance of Sunday’s encounter and is hoping to create a hostile environment for Orlando at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I think it’s not just because of the opponent, but the moment we are in this season, we know every point matters,” Pineda said. “And when you are facing a rival like Orlando, you need to have an extra boost, you need to have a little bit of extra fire inside you like this is important for us and this is important for the fans.
“We cannot let the opponent enjoy being in our field. So I will make sure I will pass that message to the players and they understand that this game is very important for the fans and for us.”