Celebrate the wins. Celebrate the fact that Atlanta United still boasts one of the best attendance ratings in the world despite the craziness of the season. And celebrate Juanjo Purata and his uncanny ability to find himself on the end of crosses in clutch moments.
Atlanta United battled D.C. United to a 3-2 win Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and they set a couple of records in the process. For one, this was the first match of the season where Atlanta United won after initially going down a goal. Second, this version of the Five Stripes were the first ever to score three headed goals in a match in club history and the first team in MLS to do so this season.
If there were ever a moment for Atlanta United to add a final dimension to the end product, this is primetime. Alan Franco, Josef Martinez, and the aforementioned Juanjo Purata all found the back of the net after twice going down a goal, and though an argument obviously exists about D.C.’s atrocious defending, the team deserved to be rewarded for the statistical effort they put into a match for once. Brooks Lennon personified that sentiment, bringing home man of the match with his two assists in a season where he ultimately should get rewarded for the sheer amount of chances he creates.
This match also served as a lifeline for the Five Stripes in their playoff push. They have a tough away trip with a quick turnaround; Philadelphia on Wednesday and Portland on Sunday before returning home to play a drastically different Toronto side the following week. The momentum from a hard-fought home victory needs to propel the team into at least a couple of points on the road, though a real win would be scrounging up four points over the next two matches.
Gonzalo Pineda, Thiago Almada, Brooks Lennon, and Juanjo Purata all spoke to the media after the match and gave some insight into Atlanta’s plans to take on Philly. Check it out below and be sure to comment and let us know what you think.
Atlanta United Head Coach Gonzalo Pineda:
On the attack scoring goals and rounding into form in last few matches:
“I expect us to score goals. It’s always good to score many goals, but it’s also good that we produce a lot of chances. That’s not the same. At times we create a lot of chances and don’t score, and at other times we try to get a lot of chances on goal and we don’t get that. For me, the performance of the team has been consistent in the attack in the last few games. We’ve been attacking well. Obviously, some fragility in the back, in certain moments of the game where we concede goals that cost us in certain periods of time. What I like though is the response of the team. The response of attacking, attacking and overwhelming the opponent. We will continue work on the balance of the team and will work to be more solid in the back.”
On what the team needs to improve on before playing Philadelphia next:
“Yeah, first of all it’s going to be a different team, different style with a different formation. They play a four-diamond-two that they know very well. A player in great form like (Daniel) Gazdag. I think it’s going to be in general a different game. We are playing away, so we will need to prepare quickly. We will clear our minds of this game tonight and then start preparing. We have an idea of how to play, but we will continue to prepare. We need to focus on us as well, because we don’t have much time to focus on the opponent. We need to play in our style, but with a little more balance. I felt today was very good, we created more chances than them, created more shots, more crosses, more possession; but in certain plays that don’t look like big threats we are conceding goals. We need to clean that up, but I want to focus on the positives. The positives from tonight are the heart, the good reaction of my team after conceding goals. We always tried to attack and that’s what I will highlight from tonight.”
On the emotions on the bench throughout that match, in particular in second half:
“I felt that the first half was all for us. We created some good chances, other dangerous crosses that were put into good areas. But we couldn’t score. That mental break doesn’t go in our favor. I think that went into D.C.’s favor. We talked about being alert to start the second half with being on the front foot. On the first play then, there is no foul called on Andrew Gutman, but Santiago Sosa fouls in a similar play and then from there the goal comes. It’s the first play of second half and you are down 1-0. It’s difficult because obviously we were thinking the opposite at the break. Then the game changed a little bit, but again the reaction from my team was very positive, very strong. The team didn’t go down on the mental side. That’s what I liked. After that, we all know the quality that Josef Martinez has. It is obviously for us a 90-minute game, we need to manage the load and the ability to impact the game in the best moments for Josef. I felt that we did that very well.”
Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada
On the team’s performance:
“I think it was very good. We went for the game the whole time. They created a goal out of nothing. They weren’t creating any chances, but they got that first goal. We were able to react and score a goal right away. Then it happened again, and we were able to find a third and get a victory.”
On the form of the attack:
“I think we have the ability to score multiple goals. I think this is just the beginning. Once we start scoring more and more, it’s going to happen more often.”
On his adaptation to the league and what the coach is asking him to do:
“I think I’ve adapted pretty quickly. Obviously the defenders are very athletic, very intense and very powerful, but I’m adapting quickly and doing my best.”
On preparing for Philadelphia Union:
“I think we have the quality players to play them like any other team. I think we are going to be prepared and try to win the game.”
On Philadelphia Union:
“We’re going to analyze the game tomorrow and Tuesday. We’re going to see what their weaknesses are, we’re going to try to attack them. And like I said, we’re going to try to play them like any other team and we’re going to try go get the result.”
Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon
On how the team performed:
“Great performance. Big, massive win at home, for the guys, for our team. Now we’re three points out of the playoffs. This is a result at home that we needed.
On the pressure of this game:
“Yeah, I think it’s more so just taking it game by game. You know, we know we have seven more games after this. We got the three points tonight. We got the job done and now we look forward to Wednesday against Philadelphia, who is a great team and look at get[ting] points there.”
On what the team needs to do before Wednesday:
“Yeah, they’re great team. Just like a lot of other teams we’ve played already this season. So we’ll look at the film, we’ll study them at length over the next 48 hours, and create a game plan. And I know everyone in this locker room you know, is going there with the mindset that we need, you know, some points, whether it’s a win or a tie. So yeah, we’re all focused for that. We put tonight’s match behind us and we prepare.”
On his assisted goal to Josef Martinez:
“Josef and I have a really good connection. This is my third year playing with him now, and I am trying to do everything I can to get him on the scoresheet, and that is my job at this Club, to create goal scoring opportunities, which I have done tonight. He got on the end of a cross that we work on on a daily basis in training, and he knows where I like to put the ball and I know where he likes to run. We are on the same wavelength right now, and hopefully we can continue that.”
On the theme of the team as the regular season winds down:
“It is the ‘never give up’ mentality, that ‘fight until the end’ belief. We have struggled a little bit at times this year, and we have gone through ups and downs with injuries and guys being out, but we have stuck strong through it. Look at tonight, we go down, we level it, we go down again, we level it, and then we win. That is resilience right there. If we did not care about this season and the remainder of the games, we could just throw the towel in, but you see the fight that everyone in this locker room has and the willingness to get points and make the playoffs.”
Atlanta United defender Juanjo Purata:
On his play and scoring his third goal for Atlanta United since joining
“I feel motivated and feel like there is a lot of trust in me. Since my arrival, the team has trusted me and as a response, I have been trying my best to score. We won today, and that’s really important to us since it’s our home.“
On Gonzalo and the team’s techniques
“I enjoy learning their techniques. I understand now what they want and continue to give them my all.”
As usual, be sure to check out our Twitter Spaces show, which got cut into two parts because we filled one with too much awesomeness. A great discussion between Sydney, Tommy, myself, and plenty of others after everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the final whistle was blown.