Atlanta United traveled to Charlotte on Sunday and wound up losing 1-0 off an Olimpico, which is nothing more than an embodiment of the luck the Five Stripes have suffered this week. It was always going to be a chore heading away and trying to scrounge points off a decent Charlotte side with an outstanding coach, but to pull it off with injuries and the soccer gods clearly being frustrated turned out to be too much. With that being said, this match has clearly upset the fanbase and divided many folks (more than normal). There were definitely mistakes and things to work on in all areas of the pitch, but there were some glimmering slivers of hope, as well, and the second half consisted of an Atlanta side that was clearly better, but just couldn’t open the door as they banged on it for almost 45 minutes.
Regardless of the result, Gonzalo Pineda, Brooks Lennon, and Brad Guzan took to the mic in the post-match press conference to give their thoughts on how the match played out. The Almada/Moreno connection was mentioned, as was Lennon’s desire to step further forward as a leader throughout these injuries. Guzan also addressed the elephant in the room involving the Olimpico, which surely will be the butt of many Charlotte digs for quite some time. But without further ado, here are all the things that were said after the match. Make sure to check below, as we’d love for y’all to dive into the comments with your thoughts on this one.
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda
On the difficulties the offense faced
“We have to give them credit, they played good. Charlotte is a good team. They like to play from the back, they like to have good possession. We couldn’t find those opportunities to run in behind, which was part of our plan. We tried to get Marcelino [Moreno] and Thiago [Almada] in good areas, to serve balls for the attackers. Those attackers included Andrew Gutman and Brooks Lennon. For many different reasons, the first half especially, we were unable to do that. The first 20-30 minutes, it looks like we couldn’t really find those spaces, so that was a bit of a battle. The second half, I think we did a very good job on that. Trying to be better on the front foot, better possession, trying to play more crosses. Also for me, we created better chances than them. Maybe the crosses weren’t there, but we created very good chances. Some of them we could have scored, and maybe the story of the game could have been different. Happy with some parts of our game. I think once we start to find Thiago and Marcelino in good areas, we are creative and we start to have something in behind. But yes, that’s something we need to improve, making runs in behind and try to stretch the back line.
On how Charlotte made finding space difficult
“I think they overload the middle. You saw their shape. They have four midfielders, very active and dynamic midfielders that make it difficult for our center backs to find those gaps. It’s not like it was an easy game. We knew there were challenges. We knew that we needed to have more patience in our build-up, so we could be able to really un-balance them. I think the moments we did that, that’s where we succeed. But the moments we were very direct, we try to force balls to tough areas and they were very good at pressing those half-spaces that we want to occupy. That was the first half. The second half, I think it was a bit different, but it probably wasn’t enough in the end.”
On Ronaldo Cisneros’ first appearance with Atlanta United
“I felt it was very positive. You look a bit at his pace and his willingness to do things in behind, to run in behind. He’s clever. He’s good at pressing. But as a striker, he needs to produce goals. That’s how we can measure Ronaldo, but it’s early stages for him. He just arrived four, five days ago. He’s just integrating into the team. But I think he’s doing the right things to integrate properly into the team. I think he has good skills, you saw a bit of the speed he has. The power that he has in those extra yards, where he was able to run in behind. We couldn’t really get in those crosses, where he could shine a bit more. But I think it’s a very good addition to our team.”
On how he thinks the three center backs fared
“I think we were not bad defensively. I thought that many of the chances that they created came from us giving the ball away. That was maybe how I assessed our defenders. Maybe we were not composed enough to find the right passes, but defensively, I don’t think they created enough chances from the run of play that really un-balanced us at any moment. We were not solid in that part of the field. They did a good job. They had two very difficult strikers, Rios and Świderski, it’s not easy. But I think overall, they did well. We just need to improve on our passing and our build-up play.”
On Thiago Almada’s play, and how he combined with Marcelino Moreno
“I think he was very good. I think in Thiago, you can see a little bit of that creativity that he has on the ball. When he starts to connect with Marcelino, they just move the ball faster on the field. I think it’s a good balance because Marcelino’s probably a better dribbler, a guy that can go one-on-one and pull people and turn. But Thiago’s more of a connector. So I think it’s a very good balance there. I think they were very good, both of them. Offensively and defensively. Maybe they just need a little more runs in behind to help them, once they break those lines, try to help them out. I thought they were very good. Very solid game.”
Atlanta United captain and goalkeeper Brad Guzan
On what happened on the Charlotte goal
“They took it well. Got caught in the wind. I got caught on the front foot and it went in the top corner. The way we defend corners is zonal. It’s not unheard of for teams to put in and around the goalkeeper. It just got caught in the wind and took off, sailed into the top corner.”
On the challenges Charlotte presented
“We changed formations a bit, in terms of how they wanted to press with two strikers. Us going to three-at-the-back, playing with wing backs. They do a very good job of compressing the ball to one side of the field and it’s our job as a group to try and play out of the other side and attack at pace. Too many times, we got caught where our first ball probably didn’t break enough lines and we didn’t make them go from one side of the pitch to the other side of the pitch. As always, we’ll go back. We’ll review the tape as a group, talk about it and see how we can get better for next week.”
On how he thought Ronaldo Cisneros looked
“He’s just arrived, so we’re trying to get him in a comfortable understanding of what we’re asking of our strikers, the players around him. Of what they like and what he likes. It’s still early days, but that’s what you want in terms of just arriving. Somebody who’s going to put their body on the line, run and chase down balls, be a bit of a nuisance. He certainly did that for us today. I think he’s only going to grow the more time he spends with the group.”
Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon
On the difficulties the full backs faced in the first half
“I thought they did a really good job, in terms of when the ball got out wide to me or Andrew [Gutman], they were able to compress that space and not let us get out as easily as we did in the second half. They were pretty good at shifting over, at crowding one side and not letting us play forward and create attacking plays. We were able to get by that in the second half and create chances. But very frustrating in the first half, not being able to get as forward as much as we’d like to.”
On Charlotte compressing the midfield and the flanks
“They matched up well. They had good tactics today, especially in the first half. We changed our formation in the second half and I thought that gave me and Andrew a little bit more space to move into, attacking wise. Kind of a frustrating game overall. I thought we outplayed them in the second half. We created chances, we had opportunities to score. I think that this is a game that you look back on and think that it could have been a draw, but it wasn’t. We’ve got to move on to Saturday.”
On if he’s trying to be more of a leader in the locker room
“Definitely. You see a lot of guys go down this week, unfortunately. That’s the world of professional sports. It’s kind of that ‘next man up’ mentality and since I came to Atlanta United, I’ve prided myself in being one of the leaders in the locker room. Now’s my opportunity to step up, be a vocal leader and maybe help a guy that’s filling in a role gain confidence and know that he’s on Atlanta United for a reason.”
I normally don’t add this at the end of the quotes article, but I’m genuinely curious what everyone’s thoughts are on the match as a whole, the team as it stands, Pineda’s coaching thus far, overreactions just because it’s Charlotte, etc. Sound off below, there’s always good debate here and I think it would be enlightening to funnel those thoughts after 24 hours into a place where supporters can speak their feelings.