Atlanta United boss Gonzalo Pineda has full confidence in his teams’ preparation ahead of their trip up north of the border to take on Toronto FC.

It will be an interesting challenge for Pineda’s side, as they’ll be without players like Thiago Almada, Giorgos Giakoumakis and Caleb Wiley due to the March international break. With new center-back Stian Gregersen also set to miss some time with a knee injury, the Five Stripes will look very different this weekend.

In steps Noah Cobb, an 18-year-old center-back who’s shined in MLS Next Pro with Atlanta United 2. With Gregersen unavailable and Luis Abram on international duty with Peru, many believe Cobb will jump right into the XI alongside Derrick Williams against TFC on Saturday.

Pineda believes that if Cobb sticks to the basics and plays his own game, Atlanta will have a pretty good chance of getting a favorable result.

“I think just playing his own game [will be important],” Pineda said. “He was a different level [in this year’s preseason] compared to last year, completely different. So, for me, when you look at the development of young players, you have to accept some of the up-and-downs in their careers. I think this year Noah has been very stable, very mature.”

Pineda explained that Gregersen and Cobb shouldn’t be compared as they have two different playing styles and characteristics.

“I don’t need him to be compared to Stian because they are different and have different characteristics. Noah is very vocal, which is something that I really like for center-backs,” he said.

Pineda explained that it’s not just Atlanta that feels the effect of playing through an international break, as most, if not all, teams around the league might look a little different without some of their Designated Players.

“I would say that any team in the league, if you take one of the DPs (Designated Players) out and it’s not the same team,” said Pineda.

“So, it’s not different with us. Of course, we know the wieght that Almada and GG (Giakoumakis) carry on the attack and the attention they get from opponents. But for me, we’re very happy with the development of some of the guys playing in the same system.

“We have players that have been great in this preseason and in training, so we have full confidence in them.”

With a good chunk of players missing on Saturday for the Five Stripes, Pineda is excited to see how his team steps up to the challenge of taking home points on the road with a very different lineup.

“I think for me, it’s an exciting week where we can test the depth of the team. We can see again, the emphasis of winning away and without some of the key players, of course.

“But I’m sure and certain about one thing: the players I put out on Saturday, they’re gonna be ready to fight and they’re gonna be ready to compete for the result,” he continued. “I know my team will be ready to fight, to compete.”

The two Eastern Conference clubs square off this Saturday at BMO Field, with the Five Stripes looking to take three points back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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