Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan has targeted a run of victories to give interim head coach Rob Valentino the perfect send off.
The Five Stripes this week announced former Seattle Sounders assistant coach Gonzalo Pineda as Gabriel Heinze’s permanent successor, but Valentino will remain in charge for Sunday’s visit of Los Angeles FC and the midweek clash with Toronto FC.
Valentino has so far helped Atlanta to two draws and a win in his five matches at the helm.
Following last week’s 3-2 victory against Columbus Crew, Guzan is hoping United can register successive league wins for the first time in 17 months.
“You won’t find a harder working person inside that building [than Valentino],” Guzan said.
“For the next few games, we want to make sure that we not only pick up points for ourselves and for the club, but to also send him off in terms of his managerial position. That part is an added bonus.”
Atlanta are 10th in the Eastern Conference standings, while next opponents LAFC have dropped to seventh in the Western Conference following a run of five games without a win.
The Black and Gold have had chances to win tight games during that run, the exception being a heavy 4-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City, and head coach Bob Bradley accepts an improvement is needed from his side.
“There’s no doubt that we are frustrated as a group,” he said. “There have been too many results where we do not find a way to come out on top.
“You have to compete with them in terms of moments when the game is on their terms and then, when we get the chance to play, make them pay for certain moments. On our terms, we have to be better.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Atlanta United – Luiz Araujo
Already possessing a number of talented players in their squad, Atlanta further strengthened this week with the acquisition of Araujo from Ligue 1 side Lille for a fee of around $12 million. The attacking midfielder is listed as “questionable” to make his debut on Sunday, but if he does make an appearance he will be eager to make an early impression. He appeared regularly for Lille as they pipped Paris Saint-Germain to the title last term and certainly arrives with plenty of pedigree.
Los Angeles FC – Eduard Atuesta
Bradley’s side need to start putting away their chances and killing teams off if they are to keep hold of a place in the playoff zone. In Atuesta, they boast a player who has played the most passes into the final third this season than any other player. Those dangerous passes have led to three assists, two of those coming in LAFC’s last four games.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– There have been 12 goals scored in the two meetings between Atlanta United and Los Angeles FC. The home side won both meetings, with Atlanta winning 5-0 at home in April 2018 and LAFC winning 4-3 at home in the last meeting between the sides in July 2019.
– Atlanta United have not won any of their last five home matches (D3 L2), which is the longest home winless run in the team’s MLS history. Atlanta have suffered consecutive home losses for the third time in MLS play but have never lost three in a row at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
– Los Angeles FC has equaled the longest winless streak in club history, going five straight matches without a victory (D2 L3) despite scoring in all five games. LAFC have failed to win 11 matches in which they have scored this season, tied for most in MLS (along with Houston and Toronto).
– Atlanta United have failed to score in three straight home matches after being shut out just five times in its first 72 home MLS matches (including playoffs).
– Los Angeles FC have scored with just one header all season, Tristan Blackmon’s goal against Minnesota on July 28. That is tied with Dallas and Houston for fewest in MLS, while Atlanta have conceded eight headed goals, tied with Portland and Toronto for the most in the league.