Daily Kickoff - 6.4.24
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Atlanta United part ways with Pineda

Atlanta United have parted ways with head coach Gonzalo Pineda. Pineda joined Atlanta in August 2021 as a first-time manager after being an assistant coach for Seattle Sounders FC. He went 38W-40L-29D across all competitions, qualifying for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in two of three seasons. Assistant coach Rob Valentino takes over as interim coach. Additionally, assistant coaches Diego de la Torre and Eugenio Villazon have departed the club. Goalkeeper coach Liam Curran remains in his current role.

St. Louis CITY acquire Girdwood-Reich from Sydney FC

St. Louis CITY SC have acquired defender/midfielder Jake Girdwood-Reich from A-League side Sydney FC. The 20-year-old Australian youth international is under contract through the 2027 MLS season with an option for 2028. He will occupy a U22 Initiative roster slot. Girdwood-Reich and fellow summer signing Cedric Teuchert are eligible to debut once the Secondary Transfer Window opens on July 18.

Austin FC sign defender Desler

Austin FC have signed Danish defender Mikkel Desler. The 29-year-old right back is under contract through the 2027 season with an option for 2028. He most recently played for Toulouse FC in Ligue 1. Desler can debut once the Secondary Transfer Window opens on July 18. He joins DP winger Osman Bukari as a summertime addition for Austin FC.

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Pineda out at Atlanta

Gonzalo Pineda is out in Atlanta.

First and foremost, everyone who covers Atlanta United had nothing but nice things to say about how Pineda treated people during his time in charge. That includes me. Across sports, you won’t encounter many coaches who are as thoughtful and gracious with their time. From everything I’ve gathered, he treated those inside the organization the same way. That will always be valuable and I’m grateful for the interactions we had.

From a sporting perspective, his time had run out. Atlanta United followed up their 3-1 demolition of Inter Miami on Wednesday by facing a Charlotte team that does all of the things that have made life difficult for Atlanta this year. Charlotte are comfortable without the ball, they’re prepared to sit deep and they’ll hit in transition if given the opportunity.

In typical 2024 Atlanta United fashion, they outplayed Charlotte, generated plenty of chances, caught an awful break when a deflection bounced off Derrick Williams and hovered centimeters past the goalline, caught another bad beat when Liel Abada found a way to tuck a 0.03 xG chance into the corner of the net, gave up another goal, lost a center back to injury, then hit the gas a little too late for it to matter. The 3-2 loss made it five straight at home and found a way to encapsulate so many things about the Pineda era.

It’s all there. An injury to a key player might be the most notable trait of Pineda’s time in charge. Despite putting a high value on sports science, he’s had the worst injury luck of any Atlanta United manager by far. Like, it’s not even remotely close. It’s bad enough to where I’d guess Atlanta have had the worst injury luck of any MLS team since the start of 2022.

Then there’s the fact Atlanta played relatively well, created more chances than their opponent and lost anyway. This one is a bit more particular to 2024, but it makes sense the best roster Pineda has had in Atlanta would generate better opportunities for themselves. Pineda leaves behind a team currently second in the league in American Soccer Analysis’ all-encompassing Goals Added metric, fifth in expected goal differential and ninth in expected points. They’re second to only D.C. United when it comes to underperformance relative to their underlying numbers.

None of that is a pitch to retroactively save Pineda’s job – you can’t lose five straight home games and expect to make it out unscathed – it’s to make sure we’re accurately framing his time in Atlanta and to hint at what’s likely to happen as the season goes on. Based on their numbers, it wouldn’t surprise anyone paying attention to see them regress to the mean. They aren’t going to turn into a perfect team anytime soon, but all they need is a little more luck to break their way and they’ll suddenly look like they did in Miami last week a whole lot more often. Some of that may be down to coaching, but the majority will be down to finally catching a few breaks because this is a good roster when healthy.

Although, it is important to remember that whether or not they’ll have full access to that roster over the next few months is in question. Multiple players will miss time due to international tournaments, including Thiago Almada. Giorgos Giakoumakis is reportedly nearing a move to Cruz Azul and there are zero guarantees the injuries will suddenly stop. Atlanta and interim manager Rob Valentino are still fighting a steep uphill battle this year.

At the very least though, it’s something new. Even with their struggles since 2019, Atlanta had 60,000 people in the building on Sunday. Whether or not Valentino or a new head coach to be named later truly makes an impact is kind of irrelevant. The league’s biggest fanbase needed something to hang its hopes on. Now it gets to wonder about who might be next and how they might be able to give this roster whatever it is it needs to turn it’s excellent underlying numbers into actual results.

Other Things

Canada add Minnesota United's Oluwaseyi for June friendlies: Tani Oluwaseyi's breakout season is going international. Minnesota United FC's star striker has been added to Canada's roster for their upcoming friendlies vs. the Netherlands (June 6) and France (June 9), marking his first senior-team call-up.

Real Salt Lake's Arango named Player of the Matchday: Real Salt Lake striker Cristian Arango has been named Player of the Matchday for the third time in 2024. The Colombian star's latest honor follows a 5-1 rout of Austin FC in Matchday 18, in which he contributed 3g/1a. Arango now sits first in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race with 16g/9a on the year.

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