Let’s go ahead and get it out of the way. Yes, Josef Martinez did actually say “If my mom had wheels, she’d be a bicycle” in a post-match interview. Admittedly, it was initially a rather confusing but light-hearted reference to the obvious conversation about goal-scoring and how it would be entirely different if Atlanta United were, in fact, scoring goals and winning matches. We’ve all now been blessed to add that idiom to the repertoire of outstanding quotes.
Unfortunately, nothing changes the fact that Atlanta didn’t win Wednesday evening against the New York Red Bulls. What started as a must-win match quickly devolved into yet another defensive meltdown where the Five Stripes gave up two goals by the 15th minute. The first half reeked of a lack of urgency, and the Red Bulls could have easily made the match 3-0 or 4-0 prior to the whistle.
The second half saw Gonzalo Pineda make some changes over the 45 minutes, beginning with Andrew Gutman and Brooks Lennon in for Ronald Hernandez and Marcelino Moreno. Gutman provided a spark of life and proved once again why he deserves every bit of the adoration of the fanbase. However, the Red Bulls were content to sit back and protect their two goal cushion away from home, so Atlanta United held the lion’s share of statistical advantage throughout the second half while being unable to break down the defense.
A lethargic match culminated with fans filing out of the stadium before the final whistle and Josef Martinez slotting home his 100th MLS goal, becoming the player to do so in the fewest matches. It’s an outstanding achievement for a legendary Atlanta figure who literally deserves a statue outside the gates of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but it’s so frustrating that such a moment had to be hampered by the overall performance of the team.
@MLS goals for @JosefMartinez17 pic.twitter.com/2bfDzkAcdT— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) August 18, 2022
There were plenty of remarks made by Gonzalo Pineda, Brooks Lennon, Andrew Gutman, and Josef Martinez after the match, and the overall locker room vibe was in stark contrast to the last home match against Seattle. The players were well aware of what this loss could do to their playoff hopes, but they acknowledged that nothing less than a win against Columbus would be good enough. However, something has to change sooner rather than later if they have any hope of a postseason appearance.
Check out everything the guys had to say and dissect each for what they’re worth. Let us know what y’all think below!
Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda
On how he would explain the first-half performance and what hope he can give supporters on playoff run
“Well, first question, I felt that it was two parts. One, the first ten minutes of the game where we start to put a lot of pressure and we start to get numbers in the final third and we had a good start. Then, we conceded a silly goal, in my opinion and then we start to go down mentally. We couldn’t even connect certain passes and we started to not be as proactive as we started the game. And then, we concede the second one in a set piece and then it’s almost like a lot of, I don’t know, not a lot of motivation there to just connect the passes and go forward. We lost a little bit the control of the game. I think that the second half was all ours. I felt like that we were dominating the whole second half and we were on the front foot. But probably we couldn’t find the right amount of quality in the final third because we were all over them, but we couldn’t really create valuable chances and the few that we got, we missed. So that was the game. The other one for me, was again, we scored a goal at the end of the game. The team never quit, the team continued fighting, competing and going for the goals even in the last minute. We tried with the set piece. The team is going to fight until the end, that’s what I can say.”
Pineda: First ten minutes were good, conceded a ‘silly’ goal. Lost control of the first half. Second half were more dominating but couldn’t create valuable chances.— Tyler Pilgrim (@ATLPilgrim) August 18, 2022
- Mentioned having to come back and be stronger against Columbus. Need to be more competitive on second balls 1/3 pic.twitter.com/1w8mPwiRmU
On if he and the team feels up against the wall at this point and what he believed was working in the second half
“On the first thing, now we have to come back and be strong against Columbus. The points that we lost tonight, we have to re-get them on Sunday. So now, we have to motivate the team and come back and regroup and try to, all the little things, to come back with a strong lineup and try to win that game. What I felt was working was, we were a bit more proactive, especially in those 20 or so minutes. We were kind of getting behind and it’s tough against Red Bulls, always, because they always go for the second balls, the second transition, the first transition, the biting the ball, going for 50-50 challenges and they are very physical. At some point, I felt that we needed that to be more competitive in those little moments. But I felt that when we were on the front foot, we were playing forward faster and sprinting in behind the back line. We were more dangerous. There were a lot of things that worked. Then again, the final piece, the final touch, the final piece of quality in the final third was what we were missing for some periods of time. But certainly, we tried. We tried to put pressure. I think we almost tripled the number of passes of Red Bulls. We had 70-percent possession, which can say nothing because we lost, right? But we created a lot of crosses and a lot of shots and it was just probably that lack of quality in certain moments in the final third.”
On what his thought process was behind starting Josef Martínez and what he thought of his performance up until the goal
“The idea was, that we needed goals and we know Josef can certainly score goals. We tried to put more natural wingers at the beginning with Ronaldo [Cisneros] on the right side and Luiz [Araújo] on the left, trying to stretch them in behind. We did a few times but probably not as often as I was expecting. And then, the movement of Josef, at times, where he tries to stretch the line, but also when he drops. He did that a couple of times and he was dangerous when he was able to receive the ball in between the lines and connect and then unbalance them in behind. So that was kind of the thought in behind and that’s it, pretty much.”
On if he thinks Josef Martínez’s movement is good enough to move a back line
“Yes. I think it is. I think also, you know, he needed this goal also to kind of come back who he is and all that. But I feel like, at times, I’m trying to balance that type of movements we want with a little bit of the quality that he has just naturally to get those balls. So the last game, for example, it was an offside on him. But it was very similar play to today’s goal. So that was what I was looking for, a little bit of that combination in the middle of the park with Marcelino [Moreno] and Thiago [Almada], so they can activate Josef in those runs in behind. Which is something that he does very well. So I was thinking a little bit on that. Once we break the lines and get in those areas, Josef’s movement in behind is very good. I think, yes, his movement is good. Obviously, he needs a little more confidence. Then he needs also to go earlier. There were a couple of crosses that went in front of him and he needs to get there, for sure. But I think that will come in time.”
Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon
On the first Red Bull score and how teams’ confidence went down:
“That’s never good to go down two goals really early on in a game. This is one of the biggest games of our season at home. To go down 2-0 in the first 20 minutes is defenitely a shock. Not the way you want to start such an important game. I think that the coach touched on it late. He was proud of us for fighting till the end, grabbing a goal late on. Fighting as much as possible but we just can’t come out flat footed because this is what is going to happen.”
Brooks Lennon: Never good to go down 2 goals early, said Pineda was proud for the fight in the second half. Can’t come out flat footed.— Tyler Pilgrim (@ATLPilgrim) August 18, 2022
Make up the points lost tonight on Sunday.
From here on out it’s a final for us. Very disappointing. #ATLUTD #UniteAndConquer pic.twitter.com/mtexgLOa0Q
On losing 3 points at home:
“Yea I think that the coach mentioned it after the game we need to make up the points we lost tonight on Sunday. That’s a must win game for us on the road. Yea, we are going to continue to push and never give up.”
On other teams in the playoff race:
“I think that a lot of teams that we play are in those playoff spots. From here on out every match is a final for us. We can’t drop points from here on out. Tonight, was very disappointing and we all know that. But we just gotta regroup and get ready for Sunday.”
Atlanta United FC defender Andrew Gutman
On the tactical setup against the New York Red Bulls
“The Red Bulls are chaos. They want to press you, put you in uncomfortable positions, and I thought a couple times that we took maybe a few too many touches and they were able to nick it and get going in transition. Especially in the second half though, they literally could not get out of their own half because we were controlling the game and moving [the ball], but I think it comes down to being a little more clean in the final third, a little better movement, and maybe a little more fight and cheekiness to get onto a final ball. I thought that the tactical setup that Gonzalo [Pineda] and his staff had was pretty decent though.”
Andrew Gutman: Team needs to have a little more fight and cheekiness in the final third.— Tyler Pilgrim (@ATLPilgrim) August 18, 2022
Said Gonzo’s tactical setup was “pretty decent.”
Mentioned it’s a tough season for the fans but they’re trying to play the style of football fans like and right now it isn’t clicking pic.twitter.com/sJRAEwyHHp
On believing this team can make the playoffs
“Of course. If you are not going to believe, then you should not be on the team. I do not think you should be playing professional soccer if that is the case. I think everyone in this group believes that we can make the playoffs, believes that we can win games, and I know this is three points lost at home, but we can easily make it up on Sunday and be in a better position.”
On his message to the fans
“It has been a tough season for the fans. They expect so much, and I would say that we are trying our hardest, we are pushing, we are fighting, we are playing the style of football that they want to see, but it is just one of those seasons where everything is not really clicking, for various reasons, but the belief and the fight from the team is still there.”
Atlanta United forward Josef Martínez
On scoring 100 goals, losing the match and the fight to make the playoffs
“It’s not over yet. I would have liked for it to happen in a different way but unfortunately it didn’t. We have to continue. There are still games left that we can turn it around. We have to thank the fans who came to support us tonight. There are still games left, an important one this weekend. We have to correct the mistakes, the poor 20 minutes that we played, and turn it into a positive for this weekend.”
Josef Martínez on the season: “It’s not over yet.”— Tyler Pilgrim (@ATLPilgrim) August 18, 2022
Said we have a lot of games left and they’re grateful for the fans who support them.
He said this isn’t the first time they’ve been down 2-0 but the team that starts on the right foot is usually the one that wins. #ATLUTD pic.twitter.com/vMOScuKbaX
On if it’s concerning that in an important game, after going down 2-0, that the team didn’t react sooner
“It’s not the first time we’ve been losing 2-0. It’s not the first time that we’ve had a bad result in the early minutes. But we also have to understand that we’re facing another team that also trains and wants to win, and in soccer the one that starts on the right foot is the one that takes the three points. It’s a sport and unfortunately one has to win. They played very well at what they do, and this is soccer.”
On what the attack is missing sometimes to score more goals
“It’s getting harder to score goals in MLS. If it was easy to score, everyone would be talking about a different way. If my mom had wheels, she’d be a bicycle. So, there are days when you can score, days when you can’t, days when unfortunately we can shoot 15 times on goal and not score a goal or simply when they’re sleeping and it hits the protection and it’s a goal. This is soccer. We have to keep improving, we know we have to improve a lot, above all on the mistakes. And as attackers, unfortunately we get blamed when we don’t. This is a sport, it’s soccer and we have to keep trying to improve.”
With nine games remaining, what is the hope for supporters that the mistakes will be corrected
“That’s not a question for me. Simply we have to keep working. Unfortunately, we’ve lost a lot of important points. But we’ve been suffering this since the first game, it’s not the first time. So we have to keep going, don’t lose hope. Last year we were in last place and ended up in the playoffs. We still have games to play, we’ve played less games, and we have to fight until the end. If we can, we can, if not, keep working. Maybe for the younger guys they have more years but we have to keep going, keep working.”
Well…it was a night. If you missed our therapy session, no need to worry! We have it recorded so you can hear our cries, screams and hot takes!— Dirty South Soccer (@DirtySouthSoc) August 18, 2022
If you were unable to listen in live, check out the
therapy session Twitter Spaces Show shrieks of the fallen podcast about last night’s showing.