It’s a rum and Coke kind of night. Pineda, Robinson, and Barco had some things to say after the match, and it doesn’t seem there was an Atlanta United player who was even partially accepting of the performance against Toronto on Saturday night. There isn’t much to say here other than the game already felt like a loss when Atlanta United was winning by only 1 goal against Toronto’s C team. Not being able to put away one of the many chances the team had is one problem, not being able to hold a lead is another. Both of these issues have to be fixed to even have a chance in the playoffs, but Gonzalo Pineda details that plenty in his post-match quotes.
The problem with the playoffs is the team has to make it there first, and what should have been a dominant win against a lesser team turned into another late giveaway. After the Miami game it seemed the team had learned a valuable lesson; after this one it’s clear there are still two other glaring wounds needing to be patched up.
Gonzalo Pineda was rightfully very frustrated after the loss, and he speaks about how the team as a whole has to be better in finishing and holding leads. Period. Atlanta’s four best attacking players were on the field and had multiple opportunities to finish the game off. Unfortunately the shots and passes weren’t, as Gonzo would say, clinical enough. Even Araujo’s goal, while awesome because of his work rate to pressure the keeper into a mistake, was still just that...a defensive mistake. When it became clear the second goal wasn’t happening, Atlanta’s defense didn’t shore itself up enough to just hold the win. It’ll be interesting to see what changes Pineda makes for the trip to the northeast in a couple of days, but this one is going to leave a bad taste for a while.
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda
On the team’s ability to close out games:
“Yeah, well, that’s the point. It’s how do you close out the game in a better way? I think scoring goals is the best way. When we are not able to do that because we are just not clinical, it is really hard. Today we created many chances, but it wasn’t a typical day for our forwards to miss so many chances. Not too much to say. We lost two points again at home and I’m very disappointed.”
On the pressure the club faces with two away matches to end the regular season:
“The same pressure that we have all of the time. We are Atlanta United, and pressure is normal. That is not an issue for us or something that concerns me. It’s about how we can recover from this game mentally and physically because there are going to be four games in a row at the end of the day and we need to be ready to go. But I don’t feel any different pressure than the same pressure that we always have being a big club with the big demands that Atlanta United has.”
On if the team battling momentum shifts at the end of matches:
“It’s not really about that because we had control of the game almost 90 minutes. When you look at the expected goals it’s a massive difference. We were in control most of the time. It’s about playing the simplest pass, connecting passes, being aggressive when you have to be, picking the right pass in the final third, the right move and then being clinical. Because, yes, at the end of the game, when you miss so many chances the opposition is going to have some momentum because they feel the opportunity. It’s about us controlling those moments, and I felt that we were doing it. It’s just the case of little mistakes, little soft fouls that are hurting us in that part of the field. We’ve been very good in set pieces overall, even against bigger teams. Normally we are doing good and today we conceded a little bit on that. I don’t feel like the players were managing wrong at the end of the game. It’s more about the other part of the game where we were not clinical.”
On Matheus Rossetto’s performance:
“We felt (Matheus) Rossetto was going to be a good connector. He actually had a very good game in my opinion. He understood his role. So, again, the game plan worked. I can be upset about the result. The performance was overall good. It just that we didn’t score the goals that we were supposed to score. But Rossetto had a good game. I asked specific things of him to be the connector and stay central. He did that. We were not able to score that second goal that would put us in a different mindset and be confident at the end of the game and have a little bit more rhythm. But that goal never came and then the pressure came into the team at the end of the game. But it is about trying to create better chances, we’ve talked about that, but now it is about being more clinical.”
Atlanta United Defender Miles Robinson:
On the team not being able to close out games this season:
“It’s tough to say honestly. We just play game-by-game and this happens to be one of the stories of the season which is unfortunate. We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and get better, because we have to if we are trying to make a playoff run.”
On what needs to get better:
“I think just as a team we need to get better. We need to be a unit, defend as a unit and attack as a unit. We need to quit making those same mistakes. We need to understand that in these games where it’s 1-0, we have to lock it in and we just can’t concede. It’s happened numerous times this season where we have conceded in the last 10 minutes and it’s so frustrating. It’s one of those things we need to bounce back from because we play again in three days. This game is over now.”
On the team having options late in matches:
“Yeah, it just happens that we are conceding on set pieces recently, and over the course of the season, and it’s tough to swallow. Those are the things we need to improve on and grow individually and as a team. We need to get better and push forward.”
On the connection with Matheus Rossetto in midfield:
“Obviously Matheus is a great player. He’s calm on the ball. I think it’s just a matter as us collectively preventing the other team from scoring late. We just have to get better. There are many things going through my head, but yeah I don’t think they had many chances in general. But it doesn’t take many chances to score one goal. This one is tough to swallow but it’s over now and we need to learn from it.”
On if there is extra pressure to make playoffs after today’s results:
“Yeah our guys understand there is pressure. But I think in reality all our players play better under pressure. Everyone understands the stakes of the game. Guys will step up. We have two massive games ahead and it’s about how we can bounce back and win on the road.”
On if there is any one thing he could point to on the trend of conceding late:
“No, I think part of being a team is that we are collective and won’t point fingers. We just all have to look at each other and figure out how we can get better. Like I said, we play again in a couple days so we are going to recover and hopefully bounce back.”
Atlanta United Midfielder Ezequiel Barco:
On the team not being able to close out matches:
“That’s true, we are not closing the games early enough. We are missing some chances which is costly. We need to do better with the chances that we have. We also played against a team that knows how to defend, so it’s not easy to score goals in this league.”
On if tonight was just bad luck conceding late:
“No, I don’t think it’s bad luck. I think the other team was defending good. Maybe some luck is missing on the chances we have been creating.”
On what the referees told him about the disallowed goal:
“They just told me that it was offside. That’s all the referee said.”
On the team’s frustration about tonight and going to New York next:
“It’s very frustrating. We obviously want to close out the game and get the three points tonight. A win would have almost put us on the other side of the table and get us to qualify for the playoffs. Now, we have to go to New York and get the three points and make sure we qualify for the playoffs.”
On any concerns about the team handling pressure:
“No, I don’t think so. We have two finals left to play. Those are six points. A lot of teams are fighting for those last playoff spots. We are going to play two finals and try to get those six points and try to make the playoffs.”
On the team’s shape and function tonight:
“We were playing well with a line of five or three and two holding midfielders. The tactical adjustment today came from the coach and the staff and we have to respect that decision and be professionals and go out and play to the best of our abilities. In regards to Luiz (Araujo), he played a good game tonight. He scored a goal. Of course these things happen when a team tries to take him away from the game. That stuff happens in football. We just need to adjust to that.”
This last quote from Barco is...a little concerning. Of course, not every interview is going to be all rainbows and unicorns, but it points to perhaps the players maybe having a preferred formation and for whatever reason Pineda and his staff decided not to opt in this time around. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. Luckily, it’s already been made obvious that Gonzo is adaptable, and it definitely doesn’t seem like he’ll be particularly hard-pressed on clinching a certain “way” just because it was his idea. For now, the Five Stripes have to focus up on these next two matches and get these two glaring issues figured out if they want a chance at the playoffs. Do that, and it’s much easier to forget about games like this.
At least the Braves won.