A 0-0 draw is rarely a fun match to watch, unless it ends in a penalty shootout...or maybe a brawl. Atlanta United meandered up to the Windy City to face the Chicago Fire Saturday evening in a match that had neither penalties nor a brawl, and it certainly didn’t have any goals. Instead, the match carried a sense of foreboding apropos of Atlanta’s playoff hopes, and though the final scoreline was less than ideal, a fresh clean sheet, a point, and some positivity were scrounged from Soldier Field.
The Five Stripes overcame their habit of giving away early, silly goals that have plagued them over the past couple of weeks despite the center back corp of Juanjo Purata, Alan Franco, and George Campbell having their hands full dealing with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Jhon Durán. In fact, Purata continues to be a bright spot that has helped pull Atlanta’s defensive line from the shadow realm. Santiago Sosa also contributed in his first start since April; he clearly had some rust to shake off but he definitely had some encouraging moments.
The performance wasn’t perfect, though, as a cross in the second half was entirely misread by a couple of Atlanta players, and the ball landed at the feet of the aforementioned Swiss international, Shaqiri. He found the back of the net, but the goal was thankfully called back due to offsides after a VAR check.
Atlanta United’s attack wasn’t so fortunate. Josef Martinez, Ronaldo Cisneros, Luiz Araujo, and Thiago Almada all had solid chances in the first half, including one incredible opportunity in the dying seconds of the first half by Almada that inexplicably went wide. That giant vertical line there in minute 45...oof.
The second half saw much more pressure by Chicago, and Atlanta never appeared settled as the clock marched onward. Pineda used all of his subs, with Dom Dwyer, Marcelino Moreno, Aiden McFadden, Andrew Gutman, and Franco Ibarra all seeing the pitch for limited time. The highlight from this exchange saw Caleb Wiley able to play a bit higher as he had a returning Gutman taking primary defensive responsibilities on the left wing. Undoubtedly this pairing will likely see some minutes together now that Pineda has switched around the team’s formation since Gutman last saw the pitch on May 21st.
Ultimately, though, the sheer talent Atlanta possesses on the attacking side of the pitch just wasn’t enough to pull off a win. Any certainty that the quartet of Martinez, Araujo, Moreno, and Almada (MAMA) were going to take the league by storm has clearly not come to fruition. It’s now prudent to determine what combination of starters and subs they become to compliment other potential attacking options like Dwyer, Cisneros, and Wiley so the team can develop some kind of identity and continuity.
Pineda, Wiley, and Santiago Sosa all had a quick chat with the media after the match, where they addressed a variety of topics including the on-field frustrations, Santi’s injury, and the off-pitch drama that has swirled around the club over the past week. Check out their comments and be sure to share your own comments below.
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda
On the negatives and positives from the game
“Well, I think we were positive in many things that we said we were working on. Solid the first few minutes to be in control of the game, dominating possession to create more and better chances. I felt today we created more and better chances. I think the sensation is then at the end they had this overload in terms of numbers but we also were tougher in those moments that we’ve been conceding goals, easy goals in those situations. And today I liked the passion and the intensity that the whole team showed, especially at the end of the game, with a lot of changes and a lot of things. I thought that it was a positive performance. Obviously, we always want to win, but it was a positive performance for me.”
On if one point was good enough on the road at this point in the season
“It’s never good enough. I felt that with the way we’ve been playing many games, again that we deserve a little bit more. Obviously, we always want to win. Now, with the situation, we’re coming here after a loss, a very, very bad loss in my opinion, the last one. We needed to not lose. We needed to just be stable, solid. I think the performance was very positive. This point can build something again. Sounders at home, we should go from the start and try to get three points and then we can earn some momentum. Sometimes these type of ties bring some momentum to the team in terms of intensity and the togetherness. That’s what I want and today the togetherness was very solid.”
On the decision to kind of use Luiz Araújo as a right wing back
“Well actually, no, he wasn’t a wing back. I know at times with the way we build with three, he seems like he’s the wing back but it was actually when we were defending we were in a back four, he was the winger as more of a 4-2-3-1. But then in possession, we’ve been doing that continuously since the first part of the year, we were doing that at times with Andrew Gutman, sometimes with Brooks Lennon, so it was more of a back four, but it was more the idea to keep Luiz isolated one-v-one against the left back and I felt at times he could have some good chances there but that was the plan.”
On the decision to start Sosa with Rossetto and what he saw in training and what he wanted to see out of him today
“Well, again I have to put this in context because at times my words are taken out of context and at times I have to do better explaining my words. Because we have explain that Santi is coming off a surgery in the offseason. Then he had a little complication during the season. He didn’t have a preseason. So, he had to go through the process and then again injured, and then the sickness that he had, he missed three weeks of training and physically he needs to come back to who he was last year. It’s not easy after all of these things that I explained. So, at times when I put Santi just a few minutes, it doesn’t make sense to people, but I have to look at the day-by-day data and see how he recovers from the training sessions and then I can see how many minutes I can put him in the game. Now, in this moment, the way Santi has been training and recovering from the training sessions I feel very confident that he can play 90 minutes so that’s why he was available for 90 minutes. I felt that that pair last year gave us a lot of stability. Santi can cover for any gap that we have on the back line, he’s very solid offensively, can see those longer passes, so the idea was to try to have a little bit more balance between Rossetto who is more of a playmaker and Santi who is more of a true 6, holding midfielder that can give balance to the team and I felt that he was very good tonight.”
Atlanta United defender Caleb Wiley
On using the game to build momentum and getting a shutout
“Yes, it’s very big for us. As a defender and being on the back line that’s what we want, a shutout. But, the other important thing is scoring goals and that was something we were missing today.”
On the team being shut out again and what are the attacking issues
“I know it’s a good question. We have all great players playing on the field at the same time. But I think just getting that last pass down, that last touch down, in order to set us up for the goal, and I think moving forward, with training this week, we’ll work on that stuff.”
On if one point on the road is enough at this point in the season
“No, as of right now, no. I think we were wanting three points. Everyone was wanting three points. But if we’re away and we’re not winning, we can’t lose. At this point, we’ll take it.”
On his ability to move up and play left wing and if that is exciting for him
“Yes, for sure. I always love attacking and being a part of that attacking side of the game. I think it’s something that I still have room for improvement but also to know that I have Gutman behind me is really good.”
Atlanta United midfielder Santiago Sosa
On his first start and how hard it’s been mentally and physically to get to that point
“Yes, it’s the first game I’ve started after three months. Obviously, it’s not the same thing as playing every weekend. It’s a little difficult but I’ve been preparing myself for this and today I felt good.”
On what he thought he did well and what he can improve on
“I think I did a good job defensively. I felt good physically. Maybe to improve, I can be more secure with the ball. I missed a few passes today that I don’t usually miss.”
On how tough it has been watching the team and not being able to contribute as much as he wanted
“Yes, obviously, it’s hard to watch the team when we lose. It’s also tough personally when you can’t play to help the team. But I think my teammates have done a good job and I think we’ve had ups and downs but today we played a good match.”
Good times chatting about this 0-0 draw, listen in as @ATLPilgrim & plenty of others talk about the match & how the team proceeds into a massive home game against Seattle. Thanks for the conversation, including those of y’all dropping into the comments https://t.co/q4Kj1geKlB— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) July 31, 2022