Well, dang. Atlanta United just went and bombed out of the playoffs for the second time in three years.
At least in the years prior they had something to say on Decision Day; but this final match of the season will be nothing more than a chance for the team to prove what they have as a new president enters the game. At this point, the only folks who have earned their spot in this 2023 squad, in my humble and useless opinion, are Andrew Gutman, Thiago Almada, and Edwin Mosquera.
Thiago Almada just had his value bumped up by like...$5 million after the greatest player in the world Lionel Messi gave him praises, and Andrew Gutman is a guy who decides to lay it all out on the pitch every single day. Edwin Mosquera is simply a hungry kid from Columbia who could change the trajectory of any match he enters, and screw it, that’s something to look forward to. Say what we will about Atlanta United’s players going forward, but being hungry, angry, and ready to prove the haters wrong in 2023 will go a long way.
Josef Martinez took a moment to shut everyone up with a potential goal of the year candidate, which unfortunately wasn't enough to slide the team through to the playoffs. (Also at the time of this writing I’m sad that Atlanta hasn't updated their Twitter banner to the next match; normally by this point they’re way ahead of the game and regardless of the result they're looking forward to next week. Sadness has overtaken me.) But GotY, Josef!
At the end of the day, the Five Stripes couldn’t be hell enough to right the ship after this crazy 2022 season and are now looking into the offseason with a metric ton of questions. Who is the new president? Who are the new DP’s? One of them will likely make Atlanta United a ton of money and the other two are, unfortunately, not producing at consistent DP numbers. Where is the midfield? What can we do to shore up the defense?
What. The. Hell?
It’s not a knock on anyone in particular; in fact, I’m all about giving Pineda the 2023 season. I truly do like Pineda. However, this offseason will have some extreme implications and if Pineda ends up with players he thinks can work his style, more power to it. But if he doesn’t, there has to be a note of strong elasticity in his plans going forward; work with the players you charge at this very moment in time because after this season, there are unfortunately no more yards of rope left to pull. Make it work. Period.
One more (admittedly useless) match awaits, but if I’m a player on Atlanta United’s squad who WANTS TO BE HERE, I’m showing out against NYCFC next weekend. This is the type of match that reveals quite a bit about the mindset of a team going into the offseason, and if certain players choose to snooze out at this moment, that speaks 1000 words going into the offseason.
Let’s ride, y’all.
Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda:
On if the performance and result was an example of how the season has played out
“I don’t know. I think, summarize the whole season in one game is tough to me, at this moment. I can tell you that if we have to analyze only this game, I felt that the first half we were not good on the ball, especially the first part, the first 10, 12 minutes. Then after that, we had a little bit of momentum going forward and creating a couple of chances, maybe not as clear as we need but a couple of ideas in the final third. And then, we concede the goal, the penalty. It’s a silly play, then we have to again chase the game. Second half, it was a little bit better in terms of intention and having a couple chances in the final third, at least getting in the final third with good numbers. The final touch, the final delivery wasn’t probably the best but yeah, we tried. Proud of the effort of the players because they tried to come back. I think they did at 1-1. After that in transition, we concede a goal and that almost killed the momentum we had.”
On why he thought the team didn’t make the postseason
“Again, it’s hard for me to do a good analysis of the whole season. We always evaluate game by game. After the games, we do a good job of evaluating every game. But when you have to look at the bigger spectrum of 34 games or 33 in this moment, you have to look at what happened in the entire season, right? I don’t want to tell a lot about those reasons because it might sound today as an excuse so we’ll keep that analysis internally a little bit but now is not the time. Today we are doomed by not making playoffs because we felt we came here with a good chance to take three points and we didn’t. That’s all I can tell about it today.”
On if the team’s substitutions were planned
“What we tried to have was what we’ve been doing the last three games, having consistency with the lineup. Probably you don’t know but Dom [Dwyer] felt something yesterday in his hamstring, the scan came out clean but still he has that sensation so we couldn’t risk him and put him in the game. The logical option was Ronaldo [Cisneros] in there. That’s how we started the game, then I have time, we had a choice to make. If we can make those changes right away, we felt that the team, with the adjustments we tried to do, give them five, 10 minutes to sort it out. It didn’t happen, at least at the level we wanted and that’s why we made the subs. We had a plan in terms of subs, we always have. At times, you evaluate or re-evaluate the plan at the moment of making the substitions and that’s we did. I felt, yes, the subs were good, all of them. They impacted, somehow, the game. We try, we try and certainly we had a little bit of momentum after the 1-1 with some time to come back and score the second one. But that counterattack after a corner killed us and killed the momentum of the team.”
Atlanta United midfielder Brooks Lennon:
On the team not making the postseason:
“Really disappointed. Just devastating. This is a club that should be making the playoffs every single year, no matter what the circumstances are. I know we’ve had a lot of injuries this year and things not go our way, but yeah everyone is very disappointed. I think it’s unacceptable for Atlanta United to not make the playoffs.”
On not being able to take advantage of the chances the team created:
“I thought we did create really good opportunities to score, especially in the second half. I thought after we scored to level the game, we had a good chance to go up 2-1, but didn’t finish that chance and it came back and bit us. That’s something we need to continue to improve on. That final product from the front line. We get into so many dangerous areas with passing and moving and combinations. We get in those primary assist zones which is what Gonzalo (Pineda) wants us to do. I think the hardest part in soccer is to put the ball in the net, and that’s the final piece that we need to continue to work on. Hopefully we can do that on Sunday and close out the season on a high note.”
On the impact of injuries this season:
“I hate to use excuses for anything. We have players on the pitch every single week that should be getting results no matter what the situation is with injuries. But we did have some incredibly unique injuries this season with Brad (Guzan), Miles (Robinson), Ozzie (Alonso), guys that are in crucial positions for our club. I’m not going to use excuses for the injuries that we had this season, but it hasn’t been the best.”
On if Atlanta is a place he wants to stay in beyond this season:
“Yeah, definitely. Atlanta United is a club I want to play for. I’ve been here three years now and I’ve given everything, blood, sweat and tears for this club. Very disappointing, like I said earlier, to not make the playoffs but I’m going to give everything I possibly can every day in training, in every game, to help this club be successful. This is a place that I really want to be at.”
On if knowing the result from last night’s Inter Miami match had an effect on the team:
“Honestly, we all watched the Inter Miami game. But to be honest with you, that had nothing to do with our focus on today. We knew we had to come out and put a performance on the pitch no matter what. We didn’t really change anything based on that result.”
Atlanta United defender Andrew Gutman:
On what went wrong this season in terms of not qualifying for the playoffs:
“A lot of things, I think. The biggest one for us, I think, is the lack of cohesiveness in the lineup. There were a lot of injuries, a lot of players in and out of the lineup. You saw these last few games especially when the lineup was consistent, and we were able to gel and connect better. For me that’s the biggest thing. We weren’t able to get a starting XI and routine subs in for many games in a row.”
On the attack not being able to create more in today’s match:
“We just need to be sharper. I don’t think it was much of what they did. For the most part, we were in control of the game. Anytime they picked up the ball in dangerous areas, it was more that we shot ourselves in the foot and gave it to them. I think that we get in these attacking positions and slow down and the opponents reset and then they have seven guys behind the ball and it’s pretty hard. I don’t think it was anything bad that happened. I just think we were a little too slow, especially in the first 25 minutes. Then you see in the second half, you see us pushing, creating a lot of chances, and then we are just unlucky they hit us on a counter and we dig ourselves deeper in the hole.”
On Josef Martinez and his impact on today’s match:
“I mean you definitely know he’s coming on. I mean he comes on and scores that goal. Proves what I’ve been saying these past few weeks. Whether Josef is starting or not starting, he always comes in and impacts the game. That’s just the type of player he is. A lot has happened throughout the year, but I feel like he’s been very good. He’s always come up with goals, the goal he scored today tied the game and gave us an extra boost and we kept pushing. Without him coming on today, it would have been a different game.”
On if this was the type of performance he expected today:
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t think anyone did to be honest. If you look at the game against Philly, one of the best teams in the league, we were flying. For me we shouldn’t have tied that game. We should have beat them by a couple goals to zero. For me, I’m disappointed in our performance today, but we still did a lot of things well. It’s still a gelling moment for us. I’m a new player, Thiago (Almada) is a new player, Luiz (Araujo) came in last part of last year. We showed this year that when everyone is healthy and gelling, we can be one of the best teams in the league. Now next year, and even going into this offseason, we have to keep that same mentality and put together more consistent performances.”
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