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Alex De John: We need to keep attacking. That’s when we are at our best.

This. Is. The. Way.

MLS: New England Revolution at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta United showed a bit of fight and grit as it clawed back to a 2-2 draw when it hosted New England Revolution Sunday afternoon. The match highlighted both the highs and lows of Atlanta’s season thus far, with a $16 million golazo and a well-worked team goal involving the likes of Moreno, Almada, and Araujo, along with two conceded goals that ultimately came down to individual mistakes. Admittedly, though, the game was enjoyable to watch, and perhaps it’s the natural high that is Mercedes-Benz Stadium wearing off, but Atlanta’s attack seems to finally be growing into itself on a consistent basis. Almada won the Golden Spike with a goal and assist, Araujo won Man of the Match honors for his goal and insane work rate, and Moreno wound up with a hockey assist on Luiz’s goal along with a bit of “vocal encouragement” on Almada’s goal (more on that below). Needless to say, the chemistry is developing.

On one hand the result is irritating since, once again, Atlanta was indeed the better team. On the other hand, the team gave away two unanswered goals to go down 2-1 but was able to stick to their attacking game plan and pull back an equalizer. They didn’t ease up though, as they continued to push for the go-ahead until the final whistle. I wrote earlier in the week after the Open Cup loss that (author’s opinion) Atlanta United needs to go all-in on it’s attacking identity, and this league match was a decent step in the right direction when we take into consideration some of the quotes from Pineda and the players about the team’s attacking prowess.

As a side note, this particular set of post-match quotes was rather full because of the revitalized locker room media availability; instead of Pineda and one or two players, a grand total of six spoke to the media after the game. The insight from the guys is actually encouraging, because it seems they’re all genuinely buying into the concept of high-energy, attacking soccer 100% of the time with the caveat that the defense needs some serious adjustment. One of the Almada conversations not necessarily on the quote sheet gave a little bit of insight on his goal, as Marcelino Moreno was urging him to take the shot when he brought the ball down and turned back inside:

If you go back and watch the goal, you can actually see Moreno turning to Almada and yelling. But what’s fascinating is the trust these guys up front are developing; for Almada to make the split-second decision to fire off a rocket and not second guess Mando just based on what Moreno had viewed in the moment while Almada was trying to control the ball points to the deeper kind of chemistry that’s developing. Furthermore, these are the bits and pieces of the team culture that often get missed from a traditional media presser, so having that locker room access returned will definitely make for a more colorful and insightful glimpse into the team’s collective mindset after matches.

Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda

On the play of the attack today:

“That’s a very fair and accurate assessment of the game, it is hard to talk of the game because I felt that we did so many good things. Really good things in terms of positions, creating chances and it is just the feeling. You can feel how passionate the team is about attacking and creating chances. The momentum and environment was really good, but we couldn’t capitalized on those moments where we were dominant in the game. The opponent was able to counter it and create those chances, some dangerous chances that we need to fix because we need to be more solid in defensively.”

On the team learning from previous mistakes:

“Yes, I felt that it is never easy to change those behaviors because it is the mental strength of the team. It is about when we consede a goal for x and y reason. We cannot stop playing. We cannot slowdown and drop our body language and we cannot allow to lose five or 10 minutes of the game. We need to continue going again, what we do better, which is attacking. And I think moments when the team, the whole team is connected, that’s where you see a really good performance when we are able to attack. If we do not score, our immediate pressure is very good, we overload the key players for them and regain possession and then we attack again. In those moments, I feel like the team is strong mentally, but we have ups and downs throughout the game and that is what we need to learn, to be more consistent. The killer mentality that we always talk about this team, we need to be more clinical in those moments.”

On starting Luiz Araujo on the left side today:

“It was a bit of a tactical adjustment, it was trying to get more width and trying to create overloads on that side, with Luiz and Andrew Gutman overlapping. I feel like the quality of the crosses from Luiz in the last few games when he is on the left is very good so we try to get some balance there. Many times we have played with more inverted wingers and we do not get enough crosses especially from the Primary Assist Zones. We felt that with Luiz we were going to be more aggressive with that. We know that New England likes to defend inside out so we wanted some talented players on the outside. So, I felt like with Brooks Lennon on the right side and with Luiz and Andrew on the left we were able to do that. And I think that it honestly worked. But at times we obviously try to look for Luiz having a more central role and the combining for the second goal was a little bit of the results of that.”

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada:

On his overall thoughts on the game of not being able to win but earning a draw:

“I think we have a bitter taste because we always want to win whether we’re playing at home or playing away but the other team also plays, so I think we played well, we kept searching for the goal, kept trying to find it, we weren’t able to get it so that’s why we have that taste in our mouth.”

On how he feels physically after playing an extra time game midweek:

“I feel good. You know, we’ve played a lot of games in a row, but I think the majority of the guys feel good.”

On what is the potential for this offense in the upcoming games:

“I think we understand each other really well. We have really talented players, and we need to take advantage of that. Guys like Luiz, Marcelino, Ronaldo, so we just have to keep working together, keep trying to find ways to improve and keep searching for those goals.”

Atlanta United forward Luiz Araújo

On scoring eight goals in the past three games and the confidence level among the attacking players

“I think I’ve spoken about this before. Now we’ve had more training, more time playing together and things are going well. I think little by little we’re going to improve and score many more goals.”

On what’s the next level of progression

“I think to win games. Score more goals, play together and I think the quality that we have up front and in the back we have to improve a little so that we can win games and get three points.”

On if he liked starting on the left wing today

“I don’t have any problems playing on the left, right or center, the most important thing is to be playing and to help the team.”

On if he ended the game as a No. 9 and if he felt comfortable

“Yes, I was comfortable. I think I ended as a No. 9 to try to run behind the defenders and we scored the second goal like that, and to keep trying to score the third. As I said before, the most important is that I’m helping the team and working and wherever Gonzalo puts me I’m going to play.”

On the emotions coming out of this game

“It’s not the result that we wanted. We wanted to win the game, and we played well but we tied 2-2. We were down by a goal, then we tied it and we kept working. I think we have to use this game as a learning experience, get better every day so that in the next game we can win.

Atlanta United FC goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth

On mistakes leading to opponents’ goals:

“It is something we talk about all the time, and it is us as a collective unit. We cannot start pointing fingers and talking about it individually. There have been different moments where each of us could have done better, and we could have done a lot better on the first goal [today]. It is silly mistakes right now that are costing us some silly goals. For instance, take the first goal today, we are dominating play, have all the possession, and it comes out of nothing. It is frustrating, but it just something we have to try and improve.”

On turning mistakes into positive learning experiences:

“It is something we have been talking about a lot, since we know there have been long stretches of games where we have been dominating, had a lot of possession, are creating a ton of chances, but are not coming away with a result. It is frustrating, but you have to look at the whole game, not just one little individual mistake here or there. We have to look at the entire performance and there has been a lot of positives in our performances, we just need to clean up some of the little things right now.”

Atlanta United defender Alex De John

On eliminating mistakes that the team is getting punished on:

“Concentration for 90 minutes. I think that our first goal comes, we are dominating possession and feeling good on the ball. Then, it’s not like the opposing team is creating so much, it’s just a little moment off our throw-in, they play a through ball and it’s a goal. It’s too easy. The goals we have conceded of late are too easy. Just a lack of focus in those crucial moments. I think, you have seen it, we are dominating possession, we are on the ball, attacking, score a goal and then something turns off. We need to keep attacking. That’s when we are at our best. When we have the ball, in possession, passing, moving with one-two touches and getting in behind and scoring goals. We just need to concentrate more.”

On leaving a game like this both optimistic and disappointed:

“For sure. Anytime we don’t win, especially here at home, we are disappointed. We want no team to be able to come here and feel comfortable. I feel that’s when we are at our best, when we are attacking and they are feeling all our pressure. To an extent we are happy, because our performance, we’ve been playing well, we just really need to buckle down in those crucial moments. We have yet to put a full 90 minutes together. Once we put that full match together, I think we will start to click.”

On the team shutting down for a few minutes after conceding:

“I think we are a little bit naïve in that sense. We have really good players, we are a good team that aspires to win championships. It’s never going to be as easy as winning every game 3-0. We are going to face adversity. We are going to get scored upon, it’s just our character and our reaction to those situations. It’s not a “ok let’s not get our hand down” moment, it should be a moment to get up and change momentum. I think that’s what happened in the second half. The gaffer had a little bit of a go at us at halftime and said we needed to attack, attack, attack. We get scored on early in the second half, but I don’t think anyone’s head sunk, we just said “ok let’s go, let’s go score now.” The reaction was completely different from the first half.”

Atlanta United defender Andrew Gutman

On his shoulder

“Good. I mean, obviously there’s still some pain in there but nothing I can’t deal with.”

On if there was any doubt that he was going to play today

“No. No doubt.”

On how the team can eliminate individual mistakes that result in dropped points

“I’ve said it before, we need to put together a complete 90 minutes. I feel like we play so well for 88, 89 minutes and we’re the better team by far today. It’s just still that one moment we slip up and it’s been costing us points.”

On if he feels like he has free reign in this system

“Not free reign, but I just kind of use my fitness to be able to get up and down the pitch as much as I can. It’s not always me getting in pockets to receive the ball, it’s me getting in pockets to occupy defenders and free up Luiz [Araújo], Thiago [Almada], some of those special players. I’m happy to do whatever the coach has asked me.”

On the team’s potential as the XI plays together more and more

“I think the potential is the best in the league. You look at some of these players that no other teams in the league have. We just got to utilize them more. We’ve got to just be a little sharper in the final moments. I think defensively, we’ve just got to focus in a little bit more on counterattacks. That’s kind of all teams are playing for at this point. We control the game, we pin them in the whole half and it’s like they have one moment to break out and that’s their chance. We have to be able to shut that down real quick.”

As usual, give the Twitter Spaces a listen! We dove back into the match and discussed everything from goalkeeping philosophy to the debate on which fanbase is the worst towards Atlanta United (hint: it was a tie between Nashville and Orlando).