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Josef Martinez: It’s another stripe for the tiger

So glad Josef is back, but what a rough match to make a return

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, this one turned out to be a rather forgettable match, despite it being the much anticipated return of Josef Martinez. Atlanta United hosted Columbus on Saturday, and essentially every problem the Five Stripes have encountered throughout the season culminated into one upsetting game. An early set-piece goal, the backline getting beat, another injury suffered, and decent chances that just wouldn’t find the net all were the story of the night that saw Atlanta lose 2-1 at home. Sprinkle in a couple of red cards and it’s clear that the frustration is mounting in both performance and the feeling of inconsistency with reffing decisions this season. Ultimately, though, Atlanta is going to have to make its own luck, and the group now has an international break to self-reflect and figure out just what’s going awry. Here is everything that Gonzalo Pineda, Josef Martinez, and Alan Franco had to say after the match.

Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda

On paying attention to details and working on set pieces, then Columbus scoring on first set piece:

“Just what you said right? We are not paying attention to those little details. Starting with the kickoff - instead of putting them under pressure, we gave the ball away, and then we are under pressure at home, where we should be putting them under pressure, not us. Obviously, the corner was maybe a poor decision, with poor marking, and references. That´s also on us. Like it is not the players, I´m not complaining about the players. I am with them and I will reflect on what we can do better. And again, we work a lot on these things. It’s not like we don´t do the work. It´s just the attention during games - in those moments is not happening. And we need to do perfect games to get three points. It feels like we have to take more chances. We have to create more chances. We have to have more possession because it feels bad after a good performance like today. I feel we had a good performance in the sense that we created enough chances to win the game. We did everything there, but we did not put enough attention when the score is zero-zero. When we are not urgent, when we are not losing - it seems we don´t really pay attention to those little details. We need to reemphasize that in the training session. We always play as we train and we will make sure that in the next few weeks, we train very hard on that.”

On the Hernandez injury and receiving a red card:

“Ronald Hernandez, apparently Bobby (Shuttleworth) fell down on top of his knee and I haven´t seen the play yet, but he is pretty swollen. We will see, we will do the test and see what is there. For the red card? I mean, I have a limit. And today I had a little limit and it was not just about today´s game. It´s about many games where I feel like we have been affected. I reached that limit today because I don´t see consistency. I felt desperate at that moment that not equal calls were made and I don´t want to go too deep on that. I was frustrated. I threw my jacket on the floor and apparently that is a massive thing I can´t do.”

On the Red Card referee bump after game for Thiago Almada:

“I didn’t see that so I will have to see the video to know what happened. They told me, but I haven´t seen it yet.”

On his message at halftime and why they were back on the field so early:

“Well we were trying to be on top of it and I wanted to have enough time, so the two guys warming up can actually pass the message of what we were trying to do in the second half. We wanted to save some time there. I felt like the players felt a sense of urgency to be back on the field. I think they did a good job in the second half by putting Columbus under pressure. It costs us a bit of time to understand the tactics and how we are moving. Once we start to do that, we create a lot of chances in the second half. It was a big risk. I mean, we went back to three after putting two forwards out there with a lot of attacking players. I don´t know if we can be any more aggressive than that. We try everything and the players, I have no complaints about the hard work, the effort, or the passion they showed today during the second half. And even the first half. We just couldn’t score goals out of the chances we created.”

Atlanta United forward Josef Martínez

On rehab and being back:

“It’s still hard. Today I feel okay, I’m happy to be back, happy to be in the locker room again. Obviously, not the best result, but this is soccer, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. We created a lot of chances and we have to improve the goals, we conceded a lot of goals-easy goals. We have to keep going, the season is still long.”

On how he played:

“I know I put a lot of pressure on myself but it’s normal, after seven weeks, the first time you’re back to the field [to] not feel a hundred percent. I feel kind of normal.”

On playing 45 minutes:

“They only asked me to go warm up, I never expected to go in the game so quick, it is what it is. Probably not the best result, to come in, but it’s soccer - we try until the last minute. We had a couple of injuries, we had problems this season, but we are still fighting.”

On the team going forward:

“This is the point that I want to be back soon to the field - not for 45 minutes, I want to start. I know it’s hard because seven weeks, eight weeks out is not easy. I mean, another fight, another life, and the team has to keep going. We have to improve a little bit.”

On how he felt playing 45 minutes

“Very strange, because after a long pause it’s not always good, but the result also wasn’t favorable. But this is soccer, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. We think that we didn’t play such a bad game in the second half, maybe in the first half we conceded goals very fast and very easy. But the team tried until the last minute and unfortunately that was the result.”

On the frustration level about working on the things causing the team problems and still not finding solutions and what’s missing

“You also have to keep in mind that we’ve lost many important players. I don’t know if another team has had the same injuries that this team has had, the difficulties that we’ve had and even with that we’ve been fighting. I’m the first one to get frustrated, because from the outside, not just today but also in previous games, to be winning and then lose the game, or be there and then concede goals and have to recover I think that is what we need to improve. We didn’t play bad in the second half but soccer is like that. Today we saw in the Champions League also, Liverpool dominated the whole game but experience won out. Here it’s also like that. Soccer in this league is strange and the one who plays best doesn’t always win.”

On what percentage he feels like he’s at

“I won by already being on the field. For me that is the most important. To come back again from an unexpected injury, but, well, it’s another stripe for the tiger. I’m happy to be back with the team. It wasn’t the best day but we’ve had worse. If we look back, last year we were in last place and ended in the playoffs. We still have the second half of the season. We have to have players recover because right now we don’t know who we’re going to play with but the team has fought and we hope the next game will be better.”

Atlanta United defender Alan Franco

On if the team has reached a point of frustration about the results

“I think there is a moment when a group reaches that point but I think we have a great group with a lot of humility, and with work we’re going to get ourselves out of this.”

On Gonzalo’s comment that the team seems to have to play a perfect game to win

“The truth is that we’re not getting the luck that we need to have because we’re creating a lot of chances on goal and we have the bad luck that the other team is creating few chances and able to convert. Of course, that upsets us, but I think, as I said, we have a humble group, hard working guys and that makes me very proud of the team because we’re always fighting and giving our best and sooner or later we’re going to get the results that we deserve. We don’t deserve to be in this moment but we’ll get some rest during the international break and come back better.”

On conceding set piece goals and how the team can improve that

“Unfortunately, that’s happening to us. We’re conceding a lot of goals on set pieces. We have to flip the switch on that and work on it a lot. With a lot of hard work we’re going to achieve what we want and keep adding three points and give the joy to our fans that they deserve because they’ve been supporting us a lot and you can feel that. We’re very sad for the results that we’re getting but I believe in the group that we have and we’re going to achieve what we want, which is to start winning.”