Despite our delirious thrill watching Atlanta United win the weirdest game any of us have ever seen, Atlanta United manager Tata Martino wasn’t feeling quite as joyous.
“If we’d played like that against one of the top teams in the league, we would’ve lost by a few goals,” Martino told reporters Friday ahead of Atlanta United’s 7 p.m. kickoff agains Real Salt Lake.
It’s a stark reminder that, despite the win and the three points that go along with it, it wasn’t a great day for Atlanta. The result was great, of course. Atlanta fans can breath a little easier with four points now separating Atlanta from New York Red Bulls at the top of the Supporters’ Shield race, plus we got a great video of everyone hugging.
But Martino said that while he was very impressed with the character of his team and the motivation they showed to get back in the game, what makes him the happiest is simply when they show themselves to be a better team on the day.
“It’s true that games like this aren’t very common—when you are down two goals on the road and come back to win 4-3—but what makes me happy and more emotional is when we win and we play well and show a better performance than the opponent,” Martino said Friday. “I’m satisfied with the reaction and the mentality of the team, but not with the amount of errors we made in the second half and the disorganization of the team.”
The disorganization that Martino speaks of isn’t something new. D.C. United took advantage of an overly-aggressive Atlanta United team after the Five Stripes fell behind early in the game as well. Martino explained that it’s not for a lack of trying. In fact, his team might overcorrect and push to hard for a equalizing or go-ahead goal that leaves them vulnerable at the back.
“We’re a team that I think is maybe not accustomed to going down so early in a match. So when that happens, it’s a learning experience for us,” Martino said. “Comparing [the San Jose match] to DC, I think we have a lot of will and a lot of motivation to get back in the game, but it makes us a little less organized.
“We need to do a little more work, have a little more concentration on the field and a little bit of that mental strength. At this final part of the season, that’s when you can least afford to make those kind of mistakes.”
Notes from the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground
- Darlington Nagbe is fit and available for selection Saturday against Real Salt Lake. Martino said his absence from the squad against San Jose was pre-planned after consultation with the team doctor.
- Darlington Nagbe admitted he was surprised to start the game against Colorado and “a little bit nervous” to play past the planned time for him in the match. He said he feels ready to play Saturday.
- Martino was happy with what Ezequiel Barco brought in the second half, but added that “I’m not the kind of coach that sees certain players as being better suited to come off the bench.” So don’t start thinking Martino will confine any player to a “super sub” role.
- Tito Villalba said he prefers the goal vs San Jose vs. the goal last year in Orlando, but largely because of what it meant to the team in what it’s currently fighting for. “They were both nice goals,” Villalba said humbly.
- Outside of the player himself Villalba gave Martino the most credit in the development of Julian Gressel, saying that Tata has pushed the German, perhaps more than anyone imagined.
- Tito Villalba on the VARquake: “I knew it right when I crossed the ball that it was a penalty. In Argentina, [referees] see it and they call a penalty, but here, they wait until the other team goes down to score a goal and they bring it all the way back.”