Let’s be honest, Atlanta United scored their first ever goal in Red Bull Arena and of course it was Josef Martinez so that’s the most important aspect of this match. Also, Gonzalo Pineda was referred to as this, so clearly the night started off fabulous:
The Five Stripes actually played some intelligent soccer against the New York Red Bulls for...you guessed it...every minute of the match minus about 12 seconds of mental lapses that truly cost the team. Caleb Wiley made a mistake leading to a penalty kick that’s consistent with the growing pains of a young player who’s truly starting to get good minutes on a high level. He’ll need to shake it off and move on; in the newfangled parlance, “it is what it is,” and he’ll learn from it. Unfortunately, that’s a tough thing to teach to a young person in any profession and it was clear he was rattled, so the coaching staff and other players will inevitably need to provide the “be a goldfish - Ted Lasso” mentality.
The second mistake was admittedly much more avoidable. de John found himself on the receiving end of a pass close to the top of Atlanta’s 18 and just...didn’t receive it. Tired legs would definitely be a factor, but de John is also one of the team veterans and legitimately had a solid game up to that point. He did very well in the air as usual, but when he slowed down on receiving the aforementioned pass it was all the Red Bulls needed to sneak in quickly and steal, leaving Rocco Rios Novo on an island.
Taking a step back, though, Atlanta United was clearly the team in control. They were sharper and handled the press much more effectively than they have in previous matches against pressing teams. Wiley had an outstanding game, minus the penalty, as did Aiden McFadden, which should inspire confidence in the attack. It was actually a ball through to Caleb Wiley that eventually led to the goal, though it went around the world to find the back of the net. Wiley chipped a ball over the top to a waiting McFadden, who headed it back towards goal where it was then struck by Hyndman. The ball careened off the keeper and admittedly made slight contact with Hyndman’s elbow (which was partially tucked) and then struck a Red Bull player’s outstretched arm, only to be tapped in by Josef Martinez. It was truly a wild way to score the team’s first goal in Red Bull Arena.
To go up 1-0 away at a stadium the team has never scored in only to fall 2-1 on mental lapses is a hard pill to swallow, especially considering Atlanta United were once again the better team throughout. Regardless, they now have to look ahead to the weekend in what may be the match where fans truly get to see MAMA make a consistent appearance. It’s a short turnaround but July 7th and the potential debut of newcomers is rapidly approaching. Here’s hoping that provides the reset Atlanta needs to start fighting back up the table. In the meantime, check out everything Pineda, Rocco, and George Campbell had to say about this true heartbreaker.
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda
On individual mistakes marring a good performance:
“I would say that even the 90 minutes we were solid, it was just two individual mistakes at the end that cost us. This is very tough, to be honest. It’s very tough to be in front of you guys because I’m very, very...not even disappointed, but it was heartbreaking. Because when you have a goalkeeper like Rocco [Ríos Novo] with just two games, three games he has under his belt and playing with the personality and the attitude and willingness to play in tough situations. The same with George [Campbell], with Caleb [Wiley], with Aiden [McFadden], with Ibarra, Amar [Sejdic, so many good performances. Obviously the experienced guys, we know Alan Franco, Rossetto. Then Luiz [Araújo] had a tremendous game, Ronaldo [Cisneros] running all the game and then Josef [Martínez] comes to put a little bit the little final piece of quality. And then, losing a game like this is heartbreaking because it’s one of those that hurts a lot because of the way we play. But this is football, we know there are many different ways to win games and lose games. Today we lost because probably of two specific plays with lack of concentration and we accept that as well as we accept the good performances and the victories and the three points. But it’s very tough, this game.”
On how he can use this loss to galvanize the team rather than let them affect them:
“I would say that it has to affect a little bit. It has to invite to self-reflection because collectively we did many, many things if not almost everything right. It was the self-reflection, the little details on the specific plays, lack of concentration. 80th minute, you are winning. Why we gave away that result so easy? Why? It’s lack of concentration, we are too comfortable and then we don’t put all the focus , all the concentration and just show down the game and just continue with the good performance. The self-reflection is always starting with us, with the coaches, how we can do better, the substitution patterns. Could we use different players to close down the game? That comes after the loss but you know, we need to reflect a little bit today. Tomorrow, we will come together with the film with the good things we did and try to regroup, to have another solid performance against New York City.”
On what the approach against Red Bulls’ press was:
“My players understood the tactics, using the numerical advantage with the back three and try to attract them on one side and then we were able to move the ball quickly to the other side. Then we start to create the overloads and then they were a little bit loose with the spirit of the high pressure. They start to be more in the middle third, using visual cues to just go to the negative passes. But even there we continuing playing, playing. What I would say that we probably could have done better is a little bit being more direct at times just after a little bit of possession. Can we go faster in the final third and try to create more runs in behind? Our wing backs, our two forwards, they did a great job but I think we do a little bit better on that. But the pressure to play like this, like a team against Red Bulls, it was very good for my team.”
Atlanta United Goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo
On keeping this loss from affecting the team going forward:
“I think above all we will take the performance away from this game. We played a solid game and as you said, we played well but made a couple of mistakes. So we will take that away from tonight. Of course, we need to learn from the mistakes and continue to try and correct those.”
On the switch of emotions after going up a goal to the end of match:
“I think on our goal, it was a big relief. We were playing well but were missing a goal. So, I ran to the bench and celebrated with our players and coaches and it was a moment of a lot of happiness. But after Red Bulls scored, I think it’s just soccer. You see it all the time in this game. It can happen to us, to teams like Real Madrid, where you see teams able to turn around results in matches. Whether you are playing well or not, there is always the possibility of the score turning around on you, so that’s just part of the game.”
On taking away any confidence from tonight going into next match at New York City:
“Of course, as you say we can take away many good things from the performance. There are also things we can learn from, but I think the performance overall and how we played, we can find many positives.”
On playing behind a three center back system compared to a two center back system:
“Personally I feel good. I have confidence in myself and all my teammates out there. I think that’s a formation we are comfortable playing, we work on it in practice. One of my strengths is using my feet and playing out of the back, I’m very comfortable doing that. There is confidence in the whole group.”
Atlanta United defender George Campbell
On his emotions throughout the match:
“I don’t know really. Different types of mistakes happen in different types of games. Maybe it’s a team mentality thing, individual mentality thing or bad luck. At the end of the day it comes down to the individuals on the pitch, including myself. Everybody on the team does their part, and mistakes happen. As a team, I think we need to try and limit those mistakes, create more chances and score more goals. We will get the results. I don’t think tonight we deserved to come out with no points.”
On the positives from tonight:
“At times we played out of their press. We kept the ball in the middle third. We created some chances, Luiz (Araujo) had a few chances, I thought we had the chances to be up. I don’t think they had any clear cut chances at all until the penalty. I think we were the better team, but the mistakes cost us points tonight.”
On keeping this loss from affecting next few matches:
“I think we just need to play our game. New York City FC plays a different type of game than Red Bulls, on the ball at least, so we need to keep our composure when we have the ball. I think we will get results. It’s just a matter of time and cleaning up those mistakes. We have a strong group. I have no doubts that we will be back.”
On carrying any kind of confidence into the New York City FC match:
“Yeah, I think we should be confident, and we are confident going into every game. Before every game, we are always confident we are going to win. In many games this year, we’ve been the better team, but that’s not how the game works. The better team doesn’t always win. I think we need to, like I said before, be locked in for 90 minutes plus and then we will get results for sure.