Atlanta United limped to a 2-1 loss against Toronto on Saturday night, in what had the potential to be a springboard win into a heavy road trip. Unfortunately a win wasn’t in the cards as Brooks Lennon went down in warmups with a left knee injury moments before the opening whistle. Despite what may have been said, this seemed to shake the Five Stripes to the core and the first half looked sluggish and undisciplined as they gave away a sloppy goal that began from a George Campbell turnover, and led to a sequence which saw Alan Franco getting spun backwards and open for a quick Toronto opener.
The team limped into the locker room after giving Josef Martinez all of 11 touches in the first half. They emerged with one player looking to make a difference, Luiz Araujo. He took Toronto by surprise with his pacy runs in behind and was able to capitalize on a filthy dribble that evened the scoreline to 1-1.
Absolutely clinical finish from Luiz pic.twitter.com/3lP8IElpba— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) June 26, 2022
Toronto read the hand well, though, and began chopping Araujo at every moment with no referee intervention in sight. They physically muscled the Brazilian out of the match and Atlanta United was never able to recover. A passing sequence that should’ve been cancelled out due to a clear foul on Atlanta wasn’t called, which led to a corner and the subsequent second Toronto goal. That was the way the night would end for the Five Stripes.
Some bright spots in this match were Aiden McFadden (by a long shot), Luiz Araujo, Rocco Rios Novo, and Caleb Wiley, while Marcelino Moreno and George Campbell had a rough go. Atlanta now sits 5 points from the bottom of the Eastern Conference and 8 points from the top, with two tough upcoming road matches against the Red Bulls and NYCFC. While Rocco may be somewhat comfortable in his position playing well with the ball at his feet, the starting center back position could be Juan Purata’s the moment he’s eligible if Campbell and Franco continue to struggle.
Regardless, take a moment to celebrate a young newcomer in Aiden McFadden, who was not only a last minute starter but had the honor of being thrust into the post match presser. He did well by all accounts, and it’s worth checking in to what he, Pineda, and Hyndman had to say after this tough loss.
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda
On Brooks Lennon’s injury during warmups
“He left the outside of the field one play in the warmup and injured his knee. We don’t know to what extent but that’s what happened. His left knee.”
On the team turning the ball over in the defensive third and how it can fix the errors
“It’s part of the game, part of the nature of the game. There are many ways to score goals, many ways to concede. Today I felt that very easily we gave away the first goal but I can’t complain about the effort of the team. I think the team gave a lot of effort and good plays, we just couldn’t capitalize that and score more goals. Obviously, the individual mistakes at the back are costing us a lot more and that’s part of the nature of the game.”
On if mistakes are due to inexperience of guys on the back line
“I don’t want to put that on them. It’s on everybody. I need to prepare my players for success and we need to continue with the progression of the style of the team. I think the team is trying to play the way we want to play. We came to a tough place to play and I thought that we were on the front foot for the 90 minutes. We were trying to be proactive and create chances but obviously those little mistakes hurt us and it happens. We need to try to clean that out and be better.”
On when the team will know more about Lennon’s injury “Once we do the tests once we are back in Atlanta. We’ll see.”
On Aiden McFadden coming in for Lennon
“I think he did very well. I don’t know what you guys see from outside but from the field I think that he had a tremendous game, actually. I’m very pleased with him because he showed a lot of character, not a lot of defensive mistakes, he was progressing the ball very well, attacking very well, winning his duels, most of his duels. He was one of the players who had a good game tonight.”
Atlanta United defender Aiden McFadden
On which was more surprising: getting drafted or starting tonight
“Both caught me off guard but I was equally excited about both and both were a lot of fun.”
On if it was almost a good thing that he didn’t have time to think about starting
“Well, I don’t have anything to compare it to but I’ve definitely been looking forward to this and it’s what I’ve been working toward. You don’t always know when an opportunity is going to present itself but I felt like being a part of this group since preseason has gotten me ready and I just went out there and tried to express myself and had a lot of fun. Obviously, the result is not what we wanted but we’re going to keep growing and keep pushing on.”
Individually, how do you think you performed?
“I think I can do better, that’s the first thing. That’s kind of how I’ve always been. I think I need to learn a bit more how the other guys play. Again, this is really the first significant game I’ve gotten to play, except a couple other times in preseason. I still have a lot to prove and I can give more, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
On how much time he’s spent playing with Luiz Araújo on the right side
“As far as in-game, we played together a bit in preseason. Yeah, I’ve been training with the first team pretty much daily, if not as least weekly, since the start of the year. It hasn’t always been playing with him. Sometimes I’m defending him, which as you can imagine is pretty difficult. It’s been great. I love being in and around it but the goal is to be a part of it so tonight was a big step forward but I think I can give more so that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Atlanta United midfielder Emerson Hyndman
On the team making mistakes at the back and it happening on the first goal
“Yeah, I mean obviously it’s frustrating. Normally we’re pretty solid building out of the back so it’s something we have to look at. We did pretty well with it all week in training. It’s something that happens sometimes in games but it’s definitely something we have to look at in video and correct.”
On what the corrections are
“I think tonight we tried to do the right things. There were obviously some individual mistakes and that can always happen to anyone at anytime so it just seemed that there were quite a few of them throughout the night, unfortunately. The way we play, if you make mistakes that far at the back it can be costly. We try to play expansive football, build out of the back and create space that way so it was frustrating on that level. We game plan each week for each team and thought we had a good one going in but it just didn’t workout that way.”
On if losing Brooks Lennon during warmups affected the team’s confidence or mentality
“I wouldn’t say so. We all felt for him, obviously, and he’s a great player, great guy, hard worker. The way it happened, obviously, he just slipped on the sideline, you never want to see that. But Aiden’s been working hard in training and I think I said last week that he’s been working hard. We trust him, he gets forward well, he works hard, we have full confidence in him coming in. I think he performed very well tonight so credit to him. We’ll obviously get him looked at, hopefully he’s not out too long and we’re here to support him.”
On what he saw from Toronto and them crowding the middle of the field
“Yeah, we kind of knew that going in. I don’t think we really exploited the width enough. We talked about it before the game. Our whole plan was to kind of once we get it on one side to quickly move it to the other side. I think we did a few times but we didn’t really take advantage of the times we did it and we could have done it a lot more. I think we kind of played into their hands sometimes, they have a lot of bodies in there and they’re good when they can all be close together and press. I don’t know exactly why we did that, that’s something we have to look at. But I think when we did switch it from one side to another we found space. That’s the frustrating part, some things we did right and other things we didn’t and need to work on.”
Also, Take a moment to listen in as we discuss the shenanigans from tonights match and dissect how to move forward from here. Thursday against the energy drinks is coming quick.