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Andrew Gutman: It’s kind of just the same old story again

No one, especially the players, wants this to be the definition of 2022 Atlanta United

SOCCER: APR 30 MLS - Atlanta United at CF Montreal Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Andrew Gutman spits the truth every time he gets on the mic. Don’t get it twisted, he’s not dogging the team, he’s just living through the same exact emotions as anyone reading this article. Frustration.

The amount of frustration amongst the Atlanta United fans and players seems to increase tenfold after matches like the one that went down at State Saputo in Montreal yesterday. A 2-1 loss is yet another result that feels like a missed opportunity. The Five Stripes seem to always be one “tweak” away from breaking free and turning their dominant possession into results, but it just hasn’t happened. From a fan/supporter/writer perspective, it almost feels worse than just having a bad team; Atlanta has the majority of the battle won in terms of playing attacking soccer and they genuinely look good playing out of the back and moving the ball up the pitch. But that final ball just isn’t there, and so everyone is left with a lot of “what should’ve been” emotions.

If you don’t typically read many of the full quotes by Pineda and the players after matches, this one may be one you don’t want to skip. I think it’s fair to say Gonzo is probably the most frustrated of anyone, and Andrew Gutman and Bobby Shuttleworth do an outstanding job of putting into words just how anyone with a connection to Atlanta United is feeling. Appreciate their “realness” and glean from the press conference what you will, but when a locker room begins to get this frustrated it tends to be either extremely good or extremely bad. The players love Pineda and they seem to have truly bought in to his system, so maybe that moment of clarity, that “aha” moment, is coming? One can’t help but feel that once that moment happens, it’ll be glorious, but the current reality is that Atlanta seems to be sipping on a bottle of luck that’s run dry.

Check out the quotes below and as usual we’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts. What does the team change/tweak/do differently?

Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda

His thoughts on the match

“I think there is some frustration, obviously, because of the result but also because I don’t think the performance of the team was one that deserved to lose the game. I think that we certainly dominated the game, we certainly were in control of the game but we couldn’t finalize a good result due to the lack of the final product in both boxes. I think that we need to do better in the very limited times that the opposition is in our box. We need to do much better. And the many times we are around the box we need to create more. So, I think that’s going to be the emphasis this week before preparing for Chicago but we’re disappointed for giving away a game that again, I think we should have won.”

On the team’s issues defending set pieces this season

“I think set pieces is a topic. It’s about concentration, it’s about working as a team on a very specific play, but also we have to face that many teams in MLS have more tall guys than us. And we want to play in a very specific way and not really a lot on set pieces but there are certainly teams that have probably taller players attacking set pieces and that is difficult to defend. I think the way we try to defend is not conceding a lot of set pieces, having the ball a lot in the opposite half, but the few that we are allowing every game at time become dangerous. I think we need to review, check why, also at times we need to give credit to the opposition. Their delivery was very good and at times it’s hard to defend those types of balls. I don’t rely a lot on that but I think we can improve on that side.”

On if he’s considering any potential changes to the lineup next week

“We have to check the film. I think now we are obviously upset and frustrated about the result and it’s hard to make an assessment like that when there are too many days away from the next match. What we’re going to do is check the film. What we did very well, what we are missing to get the results and then we will try to work during the week and come up with the best lineup to face Chicago.”

On his message to the team at halftime after dominating the possession

“I said that we need to continue with the same style, same ideas. I felt that we were very good at playing between the lines, very good at our build up and disrupting their pressure in the middle, something that is not easy to do against a team like Monteal. It’s a very good side and it’s hard to break at times. And I felt the team did that very well. After that, in the final third I felt that we were not maybe sharp in the final pass, that we tried making the runs in behind and to really create dangerous chances for us but the few that we created we missed and that was the story of the game. So, my message at halftime was just try to continue with the same style, with the same ideas, with a little bit more belief. I think with Marcelino’s goal that’s what the team did. We started to believe we were in control and it was just a little moment of too many set pieces that we gave away and they got their momentum that lead to their goal.”

Atlanta United defender Andrew Gutman

On if he has the same feeling after this match as other recent matches

“It’s kind of just the same old story again. I felt, again, we were the better team by a mile, but we just switch off for a couple moments during the game. They score on a set piece and then they score on, basically a recycled set piece, as well. We play so well for 89 minutes of the game. We’re the better team. We’re keeping them pinned in. We’re pushing the tempo, creating chances, all that stuff. We just switch off for a moment and it hurts us. I think, for us, it’s just completing a full 90 minutes. No mental lapses, no mistakes and we’ll start getting wins.”

On the team’s defense of set pieces

“I think it’s just a lack of fight, a lack of mentality that ‘I’m going to win this ball over you. I’m going to fight, push, battle to win the header and clear the lines.’ I think that’s what is hurting us right now because we don’t have enough attitude where ‘I’m going to get the ball before you and you’re not going to have a chance.’”

On if losses like this deplete the team of confidence

“It’s so early in the season, it’s only nine games in. I think now, we’ve got to come together more as a group and become more of a family. We just have to fight for each other in those moments that team are looking for in the game. We play a lot of teams, especially in this game, Montreal had nothing in the attack. They were almost trying to play for set pieces and that was going to be their attack, because we controlled most of the game. I think we’ve got to go back to what the badge actually means. We’re not a team that just is okay being in MLS, maybe making the playoffs, just playing our game. This is Atlanta United, we want to play for trophies. We want to win trophies. I think that’s just the little edge that we’re missing. We just have to motivate ourselves, whether that’s just pushing each other in training a little bit harder on the field. Covering for each other if someone makes a mistake. Things are going to happen in the games over the course of 90 minutes, you just have to have your teammate behind you, if you mess up, that they’re going to cover for you. I think once that happens, we’re going to start turning and we’re going to get on a roll. I think this will be a completely different conversation at the end of every game.”

Atlanta United goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth

On what happened on the goals

“On the first goal, we set our lines. A good ball whipped into the top of the area. Set pieces are clearly something we need to work on and we work on it in training, we go over it. Something we need to continue to work on and hammer out the problems. We’re moving in a positive direction. But that for sure, it’s something that we definitely need to continue to look at and find solutions on the field, because we train it. We’ve got to do better in those areas. The second goal, I couldn’t really comment on what happened too much. I’d have to watch back, I’ve not watched back yet, so I’ll have to watch the video again and see.”

On what matches like this does for the team’s confidence

“These games definitely hurt. You’re not going to find a guy in that locker room that’s pleased with the way things are going right now. We dominated long, long stretches of the game and possessed the ball for long stretches of the game. Unlucky in front of goal offensively and then concede where we shouldn’t concede, we come away with zero points. It’s a long season. This is game nine, so it is positive the way that we’re playing. We’re creating chances, we’re dominating possession. There are definitely positives to move forward with. That being said, there are definitely things that we need to button up, look at and continue to work at in training and try to solve these problems. Because at the end of the day, it’s about winning games and the last two results we’ve probably had the best of the games and came away zero points. Something’s got to change there.”

On how Alan Franco looked in his return to the starting 11

“Great on the ball, picks up some good spots, he’s aggressivie, wins good tackles. I think for us, in the back, it’s about communicating as much as possible, continuing to try and help each other, pick up good spots, and prevent teams trying to hit us on the counter. That seems to be the way that we’re getting played right now, is that teams are trying to soak up our pressure and hit us on the counter. That being said, I think we did that really well today. We prevented them from countering us at any point. I think he definitely did well. We look to him to play the ball well out the back and continuing to be aggressive.”

As usual, if you get a bit of time go take a listen to our post-match Twitter Spaces. Guaranteed you’ll emerge on the other side with either a bunch of new takes or none at all, but either way you’ll have fun.