Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda urged his side to build on recent results when it hosts the Columbus Crew on Saturday night.

Pineda’s side sits eighth in the Eastern Conference, inches away from the last playoff spot after salvaging a late 2-2 draw at Nashville SC last time out. And Pineda believes his Atlanta side can build on that late point in their next clash.

“It has to be. I think it’s very positive, even though it was a tough game,” he said post-Nashville. “I think the fight, the competitive mentality, I think we were a little bit unorganized at times but with the right mentality, with the right attitude to come back into the game.

“I think it was a reward for the players’ heart and passion to come back in a tough game. Now we need to build on this.”

Meanwhile, the Black and Gold are sitting 12th in the East after suffering a second successive 2-0 defeat in their last game, this time at the hands of high-flying Los Angeles FC.

Coach Caleb Porter wants to see more from his team.

“We’re still in the first third of the year,” Porter said. “We’re entering kind of midseason in the next several games, and I think these two games in a row allow us to kind of see how far we’re off from where we want to be at the end, because New York City and LAFC are going to be in around that MLS Cup, for sure. So, I think we’re close in a lot of ways, and I think we’re far off in a few ways as well.

“It’s my job as well to continue to find solutions for how we can do better.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Atlanta United – Ronaldo Cisneros

Cisneros has been the standout star for Atlanta, whose scoring charts he leads this term with four MLS goals to his name.

Columbus Crew – Lucas Zelarayan

Zelarayan has struggled in front of the goal in recent weeks, failing to score in his last nine outings, and Porter will be hoping he ends that run on the road at Atlanta.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– Atlanta United beat Columbus 3-2 in August 2021 to end a five-match losing streak against the Crew, the longest against a single opponent in Atlanta’s MLS history. Atlanta was unbeaten in its first five meetings with the Crew (W4 D1), but that run included a penalty shootout loss in the 2017 playoffs.

– Atlanta United returns home after a 2-2 draw at Nashville on Saturday. The Five Stripes are unbeaten in 13 straight home matches (W8 D5) dating back to September 2021, the second-longest home unbeaten run in the club’s MLS history (15 straight, including playoffs, in 2018-19).

– Columbus has won only one of its last nine MLS matches (D3 L5), including losing the last two in a row. The Crew haven’t won any of their six away matches this season (D4 L2) and have managed just one win in their last 15 away from home (D6 L8) following a 1-0 win at Atlanta in July 2021.

– Thiago Almada has been involved in five of Atlanta United’s last six MLS goals (2 goals, 3 assists), contributing to at least one in each of his last three matches. Marcelino Moreno has been involved in a goal in each of his last four league matches for Atlanta (1 goal, 3 assists).

– The Crew’s 2-0 loss to LAFC on Saturday was the sixth time they’ve failed to score in their last eight MLS matches, the first time in club history Columbus has failed to score six times in an eight-match span.