By any metric, this is just the pits.
To rehash the the team statistics to document precisely how poor Atlanta United has played since resuming action after the coronavirus-induced hiatus would just be pouring salt into the wounds of someone strapped to a torture table. No numbers needed, we feel it in our souls.
After the most recent demoralization, perhaps the one that stung the most after a 4-2 defeat at the hands of MLS expansion side Nashville SC, manager Stephen Glass said it was “a reality check” moment for his rag-tag team.
But Glass had to allow his players a chance to find that reality for themselves. The team returned to Atlanta in the early hours of Sunday morning following Saturday’s loss and disbanded back to their homes for two days of self-reflection and evaluation of performances both individually and collectively.
“We had two days off after the Nashville game to recover and to think about how we’ve been playing and our performances, so everyone’s thinking about mistakes and what we can do,” Franco Escobar told media through a translator in the team’s pre-match press conference Thursday. “I’m someone who always knows when I play poorly. When we got back as a team, we talked about it — the mistakes that we’re making and how to correct them. But it all depends on ourselves. We know we have to have a better attitude. We can’t let one mistake in a game or one goal that we give away get us down. We can’t let that affect our attitude during the game, we have to overcome that. It just depends on us. We have to have the right attitude, the right intensity, and the belief to turn this around.”
During the current choppy waters, no one player personifies the current frustrations felt by the team’s supporters more than Escobar. The feisty defender was recently handed a suspension by MLS’s disciplinary committee for excessive force in a tackle borne out of frustration in the “home leg” win against Nashville on August 22. But even putting that one controversial decision to the side, the frustration apparent on Escobar’s face through many of the team’s recent matches is almost a vicarious representation of the mood from the locked-out fans trying to hang with this team from home.
“I’m someone who hates to lose, so this is difficult,” said Escobar. “Atlanta is always going to have a special place in my heart — after Newell’s obviously. But it’s a club that I’ve won titles here, Tata brought me here, I’ve been part of a club that’s given so many joys to the city and I’ve been really happy here. So no matter what happens the rest of my career, it’s going to be a very special place for me and it always will, just like Newell’s will. That’s why we want to do well. I’m someone who wakes up every day motivated and wants to go to work and defend the club and do the best that we can. That’s part of what makes this hard.
“We’re trying so hard to turn it around. I’m someone, coming from South America, I have a certain way of living through things — trainings, games, moments on the field. I’m trying to be the best teammate that I can to help the guys on the team. Even though I’m young, 25, I’ve been here for three years and have given a lot to the club. So I’m trying to use that experience to help our teammates in the best way I can. Sometimes, not in an insulting way, but when we get into it in training, it’s just with a different attitude. But I’m just trying to help our team and do what I can to get the best out of our teammates. It comes down to attitude, and we’ve got to show that and have that fight.”