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Atlanta’s Leandro González-Pírez tries to be mentor in CB partnership with Miles Robinson

Atlanta United's Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez fights off a challenge from Philadelphia Union's Alejandro Bedoya at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Eric Rossitch/Atlanta United)
Atlanta United's Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez fights off a challenge from Philadelphia Union's Alejandro Bedoya at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Eric Rossitch/Atlanta United)

MARIETTA. Ga. — Leandro González-Pírez and Miles Robinson paired up in the center of a back four in Atlanta United’s 2-0 loss at the Columbus Crew on Saturday. It was the first such partnership for the defenders.

González-Pírez and Robinson have played together in a back three before, typically joined by team captain Michael Parkhurst. In prior seasons, González-Pírez and Parkhurst were the regular centerback pairing when the Five Stripes played with four in the back. Forming a duo with Robinson gives LGP, the more experienced player of the two, a new role at the back.

“I’m trying [to be] more [of a] daddy,” González-Pírez said Thursday at the Children’s Healthcare Training Ground. “I’m trying to help him make good decisions.”

When González-Pírez plays with Parkhurst, the Argentine is the younger, less experienced player. As such, he has felt license to be aggressive, knowing Parkhurst will back him up with a more conservative approach. With Robinson lined up beside him, González-Pírez is the one who must be even keeled.

“He [now] takes my place — the [playing] physically, the crashing, the runs,” González-Pírez said.

During a scrimmage Thursday, González-Pírez and Robinson, who has been a breakout star for Atlanta, were with the first 11, and Parkhurst played with the second team. It’s unclear how often Atlanta coach Frank de Boer will switch between a back four and back three in the future. If the 4-3-3 becomes his preferred formation, the LGP-Robinson partnership may be the foundation of the Five Stripes defense.

‘Little errors’ cost Atlanta

Another change against Columbus came in midfield. Darlington Nagbe lined up in a trio with Eric Remedi and Julian Gressel, after previously playing with Remedi in a two-man midfield for most of the season. Nagbe does not blame the formational change for the result, instead attributing the Crew’s goals to “little errors.”

“I don’t think they were big errors,” Nagbe said Thursday. “The first [goal], I think we lose track of a runner. I think normally we take care of that. … It was just bad plays.”

Following the loss, de Boer said Atlanta needed to be more clinical in front of goal, but that the team did better to create goal-scoring opportunities against Columbus. Nagbe echoed those comments.

“I thought we created chances, more than we have in the past couple games,” he said. “If you look at it that way, that’s something to build upon.”

Still working on the press

Atlanta used relentless counterpressing in much of its inaugural 2017 season under Gerardo “Tata” Martino. The Five Stripes did not press as often in 2018, but they were still generally known for that tactical approach. The high press has been mostly non-existent this year under de Boer, but Atlanta is working on it and trying to implement a more restrained approach.

“We are working with Frank [to] make the right moment to make a press,” González-Pírez said Thursday. “So, to find this moment to make a good press and recover the ball. “[If it’s not the right moment], we don’t lose energy for nothing.”

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